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Mar-a-Lago Worker Provided Prosecutors New Details in Trump Documents Case (Published 2023)

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A maintenance worker for the former president recounted helping to move boxes into a storage room a day before a Justice Department official came seeking the return of classified material.

Former President Donald J. Trump's Mar-a-Lago club and estate.Credit...Hilary Swift for The New York Times

The day before a key meeting last year between a lawyer for former President Donald J. Trump and officials seeking the return of classified documents in Mr. Trump's possession, a maintenance worker at the former president's private club saw an aide moving boxes into a storage room, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The maintenance worker offered to help the aide — Walt Nauta, who was Mr. Trump's valet in the White House — move the boxes and ended up lending him a hand. But the worker had no idea what was inside the boxes, the person familiar with the matter said. The maintenance worker has shared that account with federal prosecutors, the person said.

The worker's account is potentially significant to prosecutors as they piece together details of how Mr. Trump handled sensitive documents he took with him from the White House upon leaving office and whether he obstructed efforts by the Justice Department and the National Archives to retrieve them.

Mr. Trump was found to have been keeping some of the documents in the storage room where Mr. Nauta and the maintenance worker were moving boxes on the day before the Justice Department's top counterintelligence official, Jay Bratt, traveled to Mar-a-Lago last June to seek the return of any government materials being held by the former president.

Mr. Nauta and the worker moved the boxes into the room before a search of the storage room that same day by M. Evan Corcoran, a lawyer for Mr. Trump who was in discussions with Mr. Bratt. Mr. Corcoran called Justice Department officials that night to set up a meeting for the next day. He believed that he did not have a security clearance to transport documents with classified markings, a person briefed on his decision said.

Weeks earlier, the Justice Department had issued a subpoena demanding the return of the documents. Prosecutors have been trying to determine whether Mr. Trump had documents moved around Mar-a-Lago or sought to conceal some of them after the subpoena.

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