By Jack Queen
FORT PIERCE, Florida (Reuters) -An aide to Donald Trump pleaded not guilty on Thursday to additional federal charges that accused him of misleading investigators who were trying to recover classified documents that the former president took with him when he left office.
Trump’s valet Walt Nauta pleaded not guilty to charges of obstruction of justice and false statements in an appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Shaniek Mills Maynard in Florida.
Another aide, Carlos De Oliveira, a property manager at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort home in Palm Beach, appeared alongside Nauta but did not enter a plea as lawyers said he does not yet have a local lawyer licensed to practice in the state.
Neither defendant spoke to reporters when leaving the courthouse, where a handful of Trump supporters had gathered to protest the case. Trump, the front-runner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination to face Democratic President Joe Biden, has decried the prosecution without evidence as politically motivated.
Special Counsel Jack Smith’s team has accused Nauta and De Oliveira of conspiring with Trump to thwart a year-long investigation into his retention of the documents, which included some of the most closely held U.S. secrets.
Trump has pleaded not guilty to 40 counts of unauthorized retention of national defense information, obstruction of justice and false statements. He appeared at an arraignment in June.
Prosecutors have accused Trump of taking top-secret documents with him when he left the White House in 2021 and storing them haphazardly at Mar-a-Lago, including in a bathroom, shower and ballroom. Trump also showed classified information to people who at his golf resort in Bedminster, New Jersey, were not authorized to see it, according to the indictment.
Nauta moved boxes of documents at Mar-a-Lago to hide them from Trump’s lawyer and federal investigators, according to prosecutors. He and Oliveria are accused of trying to delete security camera footage and lying to the FBI.
The criminal case is one of three Trump faces as he campaigns to retake the White House in the November 2024 election, with a fourth potential indictment looming in Georgia.
Nauta had already pleaded not guilty to some charges in the documents case, but returned to court to face additional counts filed in a superseding indictment in July. Trump pleaded not guilty to the new charges in a court filing and did not appear in court on Thursday.
De Oliveira was added as a third defendant in the second indictment. Lawyer John Irving said he should have local counsel lined up by Friday and will be able to enter a plea on Aug. 15. De Oliveira is not expected to appear in court for that hearing.
While Trump promptly entered not-guilty pleas in the case, both aides have had to twice postpone their response, as they have encountered difficulty finding lawyers who are licensed to practice in Florida.
Trump also has pleaded not guilty in a case brought by Smith charging him with unlawfully trying to undo his 2020 election loss and another brought by Manhattan prosecutors charging him with falsifying business records to conceal hush money payments to a porn star. Trump has denied wrongdoing in Georgia involving an investigation into his efforts to reverse his election loss in that state.
(Reporting by Jack Queen; writing by Andy Sullivan; Editing by Will Dunham and Noeleen Walder)