Trump made secret trip to Mar-a-Lago amid classified documents scramble

Former President Donald Trump reportedly made a secret trip to his Mar-a-Lago resort home as he scrambled to deal with prosecutors’ demands that he return hundreds of classified documents he improperly took when he left office.

Trump made the unscheduled hush-hush side trip to south Florida in July 2022 just days before his defense lawyer was scheduled to search boxes for confidential materials, raising the suspicion that he moved some documents to keep them hidden, ABC News reported Monday.

“They were keeping this one quiet ... nobody knew about this trip,” one witness told investigators, ABC reported.

“I’m pretty sure (Trump) wants minimal people around,” Trump valet Walt Nauta texted a fellow longtime Mar-a-Lago employee the day before Trump arrived, the report added.

Special Counsel Jack Smith has long focused on Trump’s effort to thwart the federal probe into the classified documents, including preventing his own defense lawyer and federal investigators from finding all the documents he had stashed at the opulent waterfront club.

The questions investigators asked about the previously unreported Mar-a-Lago trip suggest that Smith believes it played a key role in Trump’s alleged obstruction effort after he got a subpoena demanding he return all the documents.

Surveillance video showed Nauta and Carlos De Oliveira, another Mar-a-Lago employee, moving boxes of documents in and out of a basement storage room in the days before defense attorney Evan Corcoran combed through them.

Trump also ordered locks changed on a closet in his personal residence at Mar-a-Lago around the same time, suggesting he stored some sensitive documents there to keep them away from Corcoran.

The FBI found hundreds of documents in an explosive search of Mar-a-Lago in August 2022. They also found many empty folders used to store classified documents, suggesting more documents may have been taken or misplaced.

They didn’t search Trump’s locked closet, a step that some have pinpointed as an error by investigators.

Trump is charged with mishandling documents and obstruction of justice. Nauta and De Oliveira are also charged with obstruction.

Corcoran’s detailed notes, which would normally be secret, were handed to Smith’s team after a senior federal judge ruled they fell under the so-called crime-fraud exception to attorney client privilege.

The trial, once expected to start this summer, has been delayed indefinitely by U.S. District Court Judge Aileen Cannon, who has vexed prosecutors with her glacial pace and favorable rulings for Trump.

Cannon held two pretrial hearings in the case Monday, including one focusing on the legality of Smith’s appointment by Attorney General Merrick Garland and another one on Smith’s request that she impose a gag order on Trump.

Trump’s defense also hopes to convince Cannon to overrule the decision about Corcoran’s notes, a move that could hobble the case.