US broadens Trump classified documents case, charges second employee

WASHINGTON – United States prosecutors broadened their criminal case against Donald Trump on Thursday, bringing new charges against the former president.

They also accused a second of his employees with helping to evade officials who were trying to recover sensitive national security documents he took from the White House.

Citing an incident in which Trump, a Republican, bragged about a “plan of attack” against another country in an interview at his New Jersey golf resort, Special Counsel Jack Smith charged Trump with willfully retaining classified records, adding to the 37 criminal counts he already faces in the case.

According to the indictment, Trump explained the document was highly classified. Nobody else in the room had the authority to examine it, Mr Smith wrote.

Mr Smith also brought new criminal charges against Mr Carlos De Oliveira, a maintenance worker at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. According to the charges, Mr De Oliveira helped to hide sensitive government documents from officials who tried to recover them.

Mr De Oliveira’s lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The charges were made public hours after Trump said his attorneys met with the Justice Department officials investigating his attempts to overturn his 2020 election loss to Democrat Joe Biden, in a sign that another set of criminal charges could come soon.

“This is nothing more than a continued desperate and flailing attempt by Biden family and DOJ (Department of Justice),” a Trump campaign statement said following the additional charges in the documents case.

Trump is the first former US president to face criminal charges and has already been indicted twice this year, once in New York over hush-money payments to a porn star and once already over the classified documents.

The charges have not hurt Trump’s standing as the front-runner in the race for the Republican nomination to challenge President Biden in the 2024 election.

On the contrary, Trump’s lead over nearest rival Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has grown. A Reuters-Ipsos opinion poll earlier this month showed Trump leading Mr DeSantis 47 per cent to 19 per cent among Republicans, a wider lead than his 44 per cent to 29 per cent lead before the first indictment in New York in March.

Trump pleaded not guilty in Miami in June to federal charges of unlawfully retaining the classified government documents after leaving office in 2021 and obstructing justice. Prosecutors accused him of risking some of the most sensitive US national security secrets.

Another Trump aide, Mr Walt Nauta, also pleaded not guilty earlier this month to charges he helped the former president hide those documents. REUTERS

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