According to a recently unsealed indictment, an indicted staff member at Mar-a-Lago, Donald Trump’s Florida club, sent text messages containing photos of classified documents scattered on the floor of a storage room.
In December 2021, Walt Nauta, referred to as Mr Trump’s “bag man,” messaged an unidentified Trump staffer, saying, “I opened the door and found this,” along with two photos of the classified files strewn across the floor.
Among the documents captured in the photos was one marked “Secret//Rel to USA, FVEY,” indicating its restricted access to the intelligence sharing alliance known as the Five Eyes (comprised of the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand). These revelations were part of a comprehensive 49-page indictment against Mr Trump, shedding light on a 15-month investigation into his reckless mishandling of top secret material following his departure from office.
Another photo displayed stacks of classified documents left on the stage of the Mar-a-Lago ballroom, where they had reportedly been abandoned for two months. Additional images released by the Department of Justice depicted boxes of top secret material crammed into various storage rooms within the Florida residence.
Since leaving the White House, Mar-a-Lago has become Mr Trump’s primary residence, but it has also attracted attention as a potential target for foreign spies, as cautioned by former intelligence officials.
In August 2022, reports revealed that a Vladimir Putin ally posing as a member of the Rothschild family managed to gain access to the club, as reported by the Organized Crime & Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP).
According to the report, Inna Yashchyshyn mingled with Mr Trump and Senator Lindsey Graham during Mar-a-Lago functions.
During Mr Trump’s presidency, a suspected Chinese spy was arrested and subsequently sentenced to eight months in prison for trespassing and providing false information to Secret Service agents regarding her presence at the property. The club has also welcomed guests such as Kanye West and known white supremacist Nick Fuentes.
The indictment against Trump consists of 37 counts, including willful retention of national defense information, conspiracy to obstruct justice, withholding and concealing documents, as well as making false statements and representations. The charges accuse him of unlawfully retaining materials concerning US nuclear programs, potential vulnerabilities to military attacks on the US and its allies, and plans for possible retaliation in response to foreign aggression.
Walt Nauta has also been indicted on six felony charges for allegedly removing 64 boxes from Mar-a-Lago to his own residence.
The unsealed indictment further reveals a conversation in May 2023 between Mr Trump and two lawyers, where the former president instructed them to tell the FBI that there is no incriminating material at the club.
Trump is scheduled to appear in court in Miami on Tuesday and, if convicted, could face up to 100 years in prison. He has vehemently proclaimed his innocence through a series of posts on Truth Social.