Mar-a-Lago pool flood raises suspicions among prosecutors in Trump classified documents case, CNN reports
WASHINGTON (CNN) — An employee at Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence drained the resort’s swimming pool last October and ended up flooding a room where computer servers containing surveillance video logs were kept, sources familiar with the matter told CNN.
While it’s unclear if the room was intentionally flooded or if it happened by mistake, the incident occurred amid a series of events that federal prosecutors found suspicious.
At least one witness has been asked by prosecutors about the flooded server room as part of the federal investigation into Trump’s handling of classified documents, according to one of the sources.
The incident, which has not been previously reported, came roughly two months after the FBI retrieved hundreds of classified documents from the Florida residence and as prosecutors obtained surveillance footage to track how White House records were moved around the resort. Prosecutors have been examining any effort to obstruct the Justice Department’s investigation after Trump received a subpoena in May 2022 for classified documents.
Prosecutors have heard testimony that the IT equipment in the room was not damaged in the flood, according to one source.
Yet the flooded room as well as conversations and actions by Trump’s employees while the criminal investigation bore down on the club has caught the attention of prosecutors. The circumstances may factor into a possible obstruction conspiracy case, multiple sources tell CNN, as investigators try to determine whether the events of last year around Mar-a-Lago indicate that Trump or a small group of people working for him, took steps to try to interfere with the Justice Department’s evidence-gathering.
Subpoenas for surveillance
Agents first subpoenaed the Trump Organization for Mar-a-Lago surveillance footage last summer, before the August search by the FBI. But as more classified documents were found through the end of last year, investigators sought more surveillance footage from the Trump Organization, sources tell CNN. That included an additional subpoena after the FBI search in August and a request from the Justice Department for the Trump Organization to preserve additional footage in late October, according to one of the sources.
At least two dozen people – from Mar-a-Lago resort staff to members of Trump’s inner circle at the Florida estate – have been subpoenaed to testify in front of the federal grand jury investigating the former president’s handling of classified documents and possible obstruction of justice, CNN previously reported.
Prosecutors for special counsel Jack Smith have been asking questions in recent months about the handling of surveillance footage at Mar-a-Lago resort and discussions Trump’s employees had about the surveillance system after the subpoena last summer for the footage, according to multiple sources.
Recently, investigators have asked questions indicating they are trying to determine if workers at Mar-a-Lago received specific direction from above, particularly from Trump himself, to obstruct the investigation.
Investigators have in recent weeks asked Trump employees whether it’s possible there are gaps in the surveillance footage that was turned over, and whether it could have been tampered with, according to the sources. That detail was first reported by the New York Times. The special counsel’s office declined to comment for this story.
Focus on Trump employees
Prosecutors from the special counsel’s office have focused their obstruction inquiries around Trump, Trump’s body man Walt Nauta and a maintenance worker who helped Nauta move boxes of classified documents ahead of federal agents searching the property last summer, and potentially others, sources told CNN.
The sources say that the maintenance worker is the person who drained the pool that led to the flooding of the IT room where the surveillance footage was held.
Last month, longtime Trump Organization executives Matthew Calamari Sr. and his son Matthew Calamari Jr., who each held senior roles overseeing security at Trump properties and the surveillance of the Florida club, appeared before the grand jury.
At the time, Investigators were interested in both the maintenance worker’s conversations and a text message from Nauta to Calamari Sr. where Nauta asked to talk. An attorney for Nauta declined to comment for this story. A spokesman for Trump and an attorney representing the maintenance worker did not immediately respond to a request to comment.
In addition to asking about the surveillance tapes, prosecutors have questioned witnesses about Nauta and the maintenance worker moving boxes after the Justice Department first subpoenaed Trump for classified documents last May.
Three weeks after that subpoena, Trump’s attorney Evan Corcoran searched a storage room where boxes with documents from the White House had been kept. Corcoran found about three dozen classified documents, and he turned them over to FBI agents the following day when investigators came to Mar-a-Lago on June 3.
Corcoran told the DOJ at the time that he was led to believe by many people that there were no additional classified or White House documents at the resort and that all White House documents would be in the storage room when he searched it.
But surveillance footage that was subsequently turned over to the Justice Department showed Nauta and the maintenance worker moving document boxes around the resort, including into that storage room just before Corcoran searched it for classified documents. Corcoran handed over 38 records he found to the FBI the next day, yet the FBI found more than a hundred more documents with classified markings in August, both in Trump’s office and in the storage room.
The Justice Department has subsequently said in court that it believes “government records were likely concealed and removed from the Storage Room.”
Detailed notes Corcoran took from that time period about his efforts representing Trump also made no mention that he was aware of any boxes of documents being moved in or out of the storage room he was directed to search to comply with the DOJ’s demands, one source told CNN.
Earlier this year, prosecutors took the extraordinary step of subpoenaing Corcoran, arguing that attorney-client privilege did not apply because his discussions with the former president may have been part of Trump’s attempt to advance a crime. In March, a judge ordered Corcoran, who has recused himself from representing Trump in the Mar-a-Lago case, to provide additional testimony. The sealed court proceeding made clear, sources have told CNN, that Corcoran is not a target of the investigation.
When Nauta spoke to the FBI last year, he initially said he hadn’t handled boxes or sensitive documents at Mar-a-Lago, CNN previously reported. But after the FBI obtained the surveillance footage, he changed his story and said Trump had directed him to move the boxes, according to the previous CNN reporting. Nauta stopped speaking with investigators last fall after changing attorneys.
The maintenance worker more recently spoke to investigators in an interview, and his phone has been seized, some of the sources now tell CNN. Neither has been charged with any crime.
This story has been updated.