Sun. Jun 23rd, 2024

Mar-a-Lago culture would have led many to commit crimes

By 37ci3 Mar21,2024

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla.—Testifying before a grand jury in the former president’s handling of classified documents, a longtime Donald Trump aide described a culture of loyalty that drove people around Trump to extreme lengths to protect him.

Brian Butler, referred to in the classified documents indictment as “Trump’s 5th employee,” gave bombshell statements to federal prosecutors last year, who later used the information to impeach Trump. Butler, a central witness in the case, is one of several Trump staffers who could play an important role in the trial.

In an interview with NBC News in Palm Beach, Butler recalled the time he testified before a grand jury last year after meeting with special counsel Jack Smith in Washington.

He said there were “about 20” jurors, including one who appeared to be asleep. “I could see their eyes close,” he said.

The interview with the jury “in a dark room, like an old room,” he said. “It was like being in a closet.”

He said that none of the judges asked questions. But one topic of interest is what he did on June 3, 2022, when Walt Naughton, a Trump aide who continued to work for him after he left the White House, asked him to load boxes of documents onto Trump’s plane in Florida. Butler said in a segment that aired on MSNBC following an NBC News interview.

“So we talked about, you know, June 3rd, obviously, about getting the boxes, the luggage onto the plane. I talked about the conversations with Carlos, you know, [De Oliveira]you know, from June to July to August — right before the indictment,” Butler told MSNBC’s Ari Melber in an interview that aired Wednesday.

De Oliveira, a property manager at Mar-a-Lago, is co-defendant with Nauta.

“I mean, we were in constant contact. We were friends. We talked about a couple of dates, I mean I got some phone calls, I asked about her, but I mean, I answered everything honestly.”

Butler also said he was “very far ahead” in interviews with his Justice Department team. He said there were four or five meetings over several months, adding that this included the time he testified before the grand jury.

But Butler said prosecutors in Smith’s office “are interested in everything.”

Butler, a 20-year Mar-a-Lago employee, told Smith that he believes the culture surrounding Trump could make those around him more likely to break the law, including on Trump’s behalf. He talked about De Oliveira’s actions.

“I said, ’95 out of 100 people in Carlos’ shoes would do exactly what he did,'” Butler said. “I think there are a lot of people who would have granted him his wish if he had asked. See Weisselberg.”

Allen Weisselberg, former chief financial officer of the Trump Organization admitted his guilt was sworn in this month in Trump’s civil tax fraud case and has remained loyal to Trump. Now he will be behind bars for the second time.

In an MSNBC interview, Butler was asked if others had given him the impression that Trump knew what was happening was bad or illegal, and he didn’t want that in the video.

“Oh, absolutely,” Butler told Melber, citing Trump’s concerns about the video.

Along with Trump, Nauta and De Oliveira are also indicted in the docket accused was accused by federal prosecutors of trying to delete security video at the club and telling another employee that the “boss” wanted him gone.

Nauta and De Oliveira’s attorneys took trading notes when they appeared with Trump before U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon at a hearing in Fort Pierce, Florida, last week.

Butler, a CNN interview revealed his identity for the first time, described his close friendship with De Oliveira and offered years of text conversations confirming their relationship. He said that De Oliveira is very loyal to Trump.

His view of the Palm Beach club began to change after Trump won the 2016 presidential election and new members joined the club, apparently wondering what they could get out of the new president. Butler recalled that there was a foreign billionaire who “would only go when he was there.”

Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago mansion in Palm Beach, Florida
Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida in 2022.Joe Raedle/Getty Images file

“It’s been quite a transaction,” he said. “Every day here you see the same people who come to kiss the ring.”

After leaving his job at the club in November 2022, Butler said it wasn’t long before he heard directly from Trump. “It was the day after Thanksgiving,” he said, “and he wanted to know why I was gone.”

Trump said Butler could come back at any time. The call didn’t seem out of the ordinary to Butler at the time, but now he believes Trump may be trying to show him the loyalty he expects from those around him.

“Everything feels completely different now,” Butler said.

Trump was indicted last year 40 crimes For mishandling classified documents after leaving the White House and deliberately obstructing federal investigators trying to retrieve them. He denied all wrongdoing and pleaded not guilty.

Trump’s defendants Nauta and De Oliveiraalso have pleaded not guilty to related charges against them.

Cannon has not set a date for Trump’s trial in the classified documents case. Government prosecutors and defense attorneys said they believe it could happen this summer.

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