A lawyer for former U.S. President Donald Trump on Sunday rebuffed new criminal charges that he obstructed justice, saying that Trump could have destroyed security camera footage at his Florida estate if he had wanted to but did not and, instead, turned over the video to government investigators.
The attorney, Alina Habba, did not directly deny the obstruction allegation in a “Fox News Sunday” interview.
Instead, Habba said, “If there was an attempt for him to not turn over documents or he wanted something deleted, do you not think that that’s something he couldn’t have gotten done? Let’s just use common sense. But he never would act like that.”
“He is the most ethical American I know,” Habba said.
Special counsel Jack Smith leveled the new allegations against Trump last week in a superseding indictment that broadly accused Trump of illegally retaining 32 classified national security documents at Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s oceanside residence.
Trump now faces a total of 40 charges in the classified documents case.
Trump kept the documents after his presidency ended in early 2021, instead of sending them to the National Archives as required by law, and, the indictment alleges, conspired to keep the entirety of the documents from federal investigators.
The new indictment accused Trump of plotting with two aides, his valet, Walt Nauta, and Mar-a-Lago property manager Carlos De Oliveira to wipe out security camera video showing workers moving boxes of the documents in and out of a storage room to hide them from government investigators who had subpoenaed them.
The indictment alleged that De Oliveira had a private conversation with the Mar-a-Lago employee in charge of the surveillance footage and told the employee “’the boss’ wanted the server deleted.”
But the indictment said that the employee in charge of the footage replied, “that he would not know how to do that, and that he did not believe that he would have the rights to do that.”
In the Fox news interview, Habba said, “No tapes were deleted. [Trump] turned them over. He cooperated, as he always does. … If President Trump didn’t want something turned over, I assure you that is something that could have been done.”
Fox host Shannon Bream pressed Habba about the indictment allegation that Trump tried to get the surveillance video deleted, but Habba replied, “Shannon, I know the facts, and the facts are when President Trump gets a subpoena, it goes to the organization, the organization turns it over.”
Even as national polls show that Trump is far and away the front-runner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination to run against Democratic President Joe Biden for another four-year term in the White House, his legal perils are mounting. Trump is the first U.S. president to face criminal charges.
In addition to the classified documents case in Florida, Trump faces New York state charges that he altered business records at his family real estate conglomerate to hide a hush money payment to a porn film star ahead of his successful 2016 election campaign to silence her claim of a one-night tryst with him a decade earlier.
Trump has denied the already filed charges and any wrongdoing in other investigations.
More charges related to Trump’s efforts to upend his 2020 loss to Biden could be filed in the coming days.
Security barriers have been erected around a courthouse in the southern city of Atlanta, Georgia, where a state prosecutor has signaled that she is nearing a decision whether to indict Trump and key aides in their effort to overturn his narrow loss to Biden in Georgia.
In a taped phone call in early 2021, Trump asked Georgia state election officials to “find” him 11,780 votes, one more than he needed to overcome Biden’s winning margin in the state.
Smith, the Justice Department special counsel, has told Trump he is a target of his investigation into the role Trump played in trying to reverse the national outcome of the election and urging Trump supporters to “fight like hell” on January 6, 2021, to keep Congress from certifying that Biden had won the election.
About 2,000 Trump supporters rampaged into the U.S. Capitol that day, clashing with police, ransacking congressional offices and delaying certification of the election outcome until the early hours of January 7.