Donald Trump has been accused of asking an employee to delete security footage at his Florida estate in an effort to obstruct the federal investigation into the classified documents case.
The updated indictment, which added new charges against the former US president, centres on surveillance footage at Mr Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach – evidence that has long been vital to the case.
The former US president is alleged to have asked for the footage to be deleted after FBI and Justice Department investigators visited last June to collect classified documents he took with him after leaving the White House.
The indictment also adds new charges against the former president, who has been charged with illegally retaining hundreds of secret papers, and names an additional defendant.
A trial date for Mr Trump has been set for 20 May next year.
Prosecutors accuse Mr Trump of scheming with his valet Walt Nauta and a Mar-a-Lago property manager Carlos De Oliveira to conceal the footage from federal investigators after they issued a subpoena for it.
Video from the property would ultimately play a significant role in the investigation because prosecutors said it captured Mr Nauta moving boxes of documents in and out of a storage room – including a day before an FBI visit to the property.
The indictment alleges boxes were moved at Mr Trump’s direction.
It includes new counts of obstruction and wilful retention of national defence information, compounding the former president’s legal jeopardy even as he braces for a possible additional indictment in Washington over his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.
Following the updated indictment, Mr Trump told Fox News “it’s election interference at the highest level”. He said “they’re harassing me”, adding that the charges are “ridiculous”.
The classified records were taken by the former president to Mar-a-Lago after he left the White House in January 2021.
The updated indictment charges Mr Trump with an additional count of wilfully retaining national defence information relating to the former president discussing US military plans to attack another country during an interview in July 2021 at his New Jersey golf club at Bedminster.
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The interview was for a memoir being written by his one-time chief of staff Mark Meadows, who in his subsequent book named the country as Iran.
According to the indictment, Mr Trump returned that document, which was marked as top secret and not approved to be shown show to foreign nationals, to the federal government on 17 January 2022.
It marks a notable shift in the prosecution’s approach to Mr Trump’s case, charging him for retaining a document it alleges the former president knew was highly sensitive after he left office – and not just for failing to return it to the government when asked.
Mr Trump and Mr Nauta have pleaded not guilty.