A key witness in the government’s investigation into Donald Trump’s handling of classified documents retracted his previous testimony and gave new statements that implicate the former president after switching attorneys, federal prosecutors said in a court filing on Tuesday.
Trump was charged with dozens of federal crimes in June for mishandling sensitive material after he left the White House. But special counsel Jack Smith’s office leveled even more felonies against him last month, accusing the former president and two aides of ordering the deletion of a computer server that held incriminating footage.
Prosecutors said the witness — described as “Trump Employee 4” in the court filings but identified in media reports as Yuscil Taveras, an IT director at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence and social club in Florida — had given “prior false testimony” when he spoke before a grand jury earlier this year and said he had no knowledge about conversations surrounding the security footage.
But the government warned the man that his first attorney — paid for by Trump’s Save America PAC — may have had a conflict of interest, prompting him to switch legal counsel.
“Immediately after receiving new counsel, Trump Employee 4 retracted his prior false testimony and provided information that implicated Nauta, De Oliveira and Trump in efforts to delete security camera footage,” the court filing says, referring to Trump’s fellow defendants Walt Nauta, his private valet, and Carlos De Oliveira, his property manager at Mar-a-Lago. “The government anticipates calling Trump Employee 4 as a trial witness and expects that he will testify to conduct alleged in the superseding indictment.”
Taveras does not face any charges himself. But Smith’s superseding indictment seemed to rely heavily on his new testimony to add charges against Trump and name De Oliveira as a co-defendant. The special counsel pointed to allegations in the indictment that De Oliveira had told the IT director in 2022 that “the boss” wanted the server deleted even though the government had subpoenaed the footage.
Taveras rejected those demands and said he “did not believe he would have the rights to do that,” according to the indictment.
The filing came after U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon — who is overseeing the classified documents case in Florida — asked why Smith’s office had been using a grand jury in Washington, D.C., even after the special counsel filed the initial June charges against Trump. Smith said he had done so to investigate any potential false statements made by witnesses, adding that the grand jury had wrapped up its work last week.
A trial is set for May 20, 2024, in the documents case. Trump, who has also been indicted in three other cases this year, has denied all wrongdoing and has bashed the multiple pursuits of criminal charges against him.