December 7, 2022
A report published by The Washington Post claims that money from former President Donald Trump’s political action committee (PAC), paid the legal bills of some witnesses involved in the U.S. Justice Department’s criminal inquiry into Trump’s improper handling and retention of classified documents found in an FBI search at his Mar-a-Lago Club .
According to The Guardian, another is valet Walt Nauda, who told FBI agents that he had moved boxes at Trump’s direction around his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida while the government was trying to retrieve documents and records that should have been preserved in Washington DC.
The payment of witnesses’ legal fees by a political group whose purse strings Trump controls, while not illegal, raises ethical concerns and poses a conflict, the Post says.
It quotes former federal prosecutor Jim Walden, who questioned if the payments to witnesses’ lawyers by the Trump fund influenced their testimony or level of cooperation.
“It looks like the Trump political action committee is either paying for the silence of these witnesses, for them to take the Fifth [amendment] or for favorable testimony,” Walden said, referring to the constitutional protection against self-incrimination.
He added, “These circumstances should look very suspicious to the justice department, and there’s a judicial mechanism for them to get court oversight if there’s a conflict.”
Federal investigators are already looking into Trump Save America PAC, and in September subpoenaed two of the former president’s advisers, senior aide Stephen Miller and ex-director of White House political affairs Brian Jack, over fundraising for efforts to reverse his 2020 election defeat.
The Guardian has reported previously how Trump retained documents bearing classification markings, along with communications from after his presidency, at his Florida resort following his departure from the White House in January 2021.
FBI agents raided Trump’s private members’ club in August and uncovered thousands of documents—including hundreds marked classified—that his legal team insisted already had been returned to government archives. Nauda, the valet, told FBI investigators that Trump directed him to move boxes of documents around the property.
The justice department’s criminal investigation is looking into whether Trump mishandled national security information, including whether he destroyed documents.
Research contact: @guardian