Three months after the FBI seized classified records from Mar-a-Lago last August, a longtime employee of Donald Trump’s private club quit his job.
Within days, the former president did something he rarely did – Trump called the former employee on his cell phone to ask why he was leaving after two decades of working at the resort, according to two sources and material seen by CNN.
The employee told the former president he had another business opportunity he wanted to pursue. The message later got back to the former employee that Trump thought he was a “good man.”
But he wasn’t just any staffer at the club – the former employee was a witness to several episodes special counsel Jack Smith included in his federal criminal indictment charging the former president with mishandling classified documents.
He had moved several boxes for Trump and was also privy to conversations referenced in the indictment between Trump and his two co-defendants, Mar-a-Lago property manager Carlos De Oliveira, and Trump’s body man Walt Nauta – putting the former employee in a unique group of Mar-a-Lago staffers who could be in a position to provide valuable information to investigators.
The phone call from Trump, described to CNN by multiple people familiar with it, was part of a pattern of outreach to the former employee, who would become a key witness in the months after the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago and before Trump’s June indictment. Interactions included offers of legal representation by attorneys paid for by Trump and complimentary tickets to a golf tournament, as well as repeated reminders he could come back to work for Trump.
Taken together, the incidents may have been harmless, even gracious exchanges between friends or business contacts. But the special counsel’s office investigating Trump showed interest in them. In interviews with investigators before Trump’s indictment, the former employee shared details of how associates of the former president kept in touch after he had stopped working at Mar-a-Lago, the sources told CNN.
Most of the interactions have not been previously reported and none were referenced in the criminal indictments.