Chekhov’s Alan Garten: The Human Gaps in the Surveillance Footage Gap

This post noted, shortly after Trump’s first stolen documents indictment, that the indictment included nothing about the gaps in surveillance footage DOJ spent much of the last year investigating. It also noted that the indictment did not name the maintenance guy who had played a role in moving boxes around.

But the indictment doesn’t hint at when DOJ found gaps in surveillance footage, the topic of numerous recent interviews, or how those gaps got there. In fact, the maintenance guy who flooded the server room doesn’t appear to be mentioned in the indictment at all (his actions are described in ¶61 and ¶72, without a label for him).

As Jay Bratt’s notice to Aileen Cannon of the new details in the superseding indictment released last night explained, those paragraphs now identify newly-charged Carlos De Oliveira by name.

Paragraphs 62 and 63 now identify De Oliveira as the person who helped Nauta move approximately 30 boxes from Trump’s residence to the Storage Room on June 2, 2022, whereas paragraph 61 of the earlier indictment referred to De Oliveira as “an employee of The Mar-a-Lago Club”;

Paragraph 73 alleges that De Oliveira was one of the “others” identified in paragraph 72 of the original indictment who, on June 3, 2022, with Nauta, “loaded several of Trump’s boxes along with other items on aircraft that flew Trump and his family north for the summer”;

Yet even with the inclusion of De Oliveira in the indictment, the gaps about the gaps in the surveillance footage remain.

The conspiracy added to the indictment, laid out in ¶74 through ¶87, describes an attempt to destroy surveillance footage. As described, Walt Nauta and De Oliveira asked someone, identified in the indictment as Trump Employee 4 but who is likely Yuscil Taveras (identified in this story from NYT), to delete the surveillance server, but he said he could not. He told De Oliveira to contact the supervisor of security for Trump Organization.

83. On Monday, June 27, 2022, at 9:48 a.m., DE OLIVEIRA walked to the IT office where Trump Employee 4 was working with another employee in the IT department. DE OLIVEIRA requested that Trump Employee 4 step away from the office so that DE OLIVEIRA and Trump Employee 4 could talk.

84. At 9:49 a.m., Trump Employee 4 and DE OLIVEIRA left the area of the IT office together and walked through a basement tunnel. DE OLIVEIRA took Trump Employee 4 to a small room known as an “audio closet” near the White and Gold Ballroom. Once inside the audio closet, DE OLIVEIRA and Trump Employee 4 had the following exchange:

a. DE OLIVEIRA told Trump Employee 4 that their conversation should remain between the two of them.

b. DE OLIVEIRA asked Trump Employee 4 how many days the server retained footage. Trump Employee 4 responded that he believed it was approximately 45 days.

c. DE OLIVEIRA told Trump Employee 4 that “the boss” wanted the server deleted. Trump Employee 4 responded that he would not know how to do that, and that he did not believe he would have the rights to do that. Trump Employee 4 told DE OLIVEIRA that DE OLIVEIRA would have to reach out to another employee who was the supervisor of security for TRUMP’s business organization. DE OLIVEIRA then insisted to TRUMP Employee 4 that “the boss wanted the server deleted and asked, “what are we going to do?” [my emphasis]

But that section ends with Nauta and De Oliveira meeting in the bushes just off Mar-a-Lago property the next day, then walking to the IT office, then walking back to the bushes again. There’s no allegation that Nauta and De Oliveira succeeded in deleting the video.

The entire section is bookended with these paragraphs, which — and I say this as a PhD in Comparative Literature — are narratively brilliant.

74. On June 3, 2022, when FBI agents were at The Mar-a-Lago Club to collect the documents with classification markings from Trump Attorney 1 and Trump Attorney 3, the agents observed that there were surveillance cameras located near the Storage Room.

75. On June 22, 2022, the Department of Justice emailed an attorney for TRUMP’s business organization a draft grand jury subpoena requiring the production of certain security camera footage from The Mar-a-Lago Club, including footage from cameras “on ground floor (basement),” where the Storage Room was located.

76. On June 23, 2022, at 8:46 p.m., TRUMP called DE OLIVEIRA and they spoke for approximately 24 minutes.

[snip]

87. [On June 27] At 3:55 p.m., TRUMP called DE OLIVEIRA and they spoke for approximately three and a half minutes. [my emphasis]

The section starts and ends with a call to Trump. But never explains how the gaps ended up in the surveillance footage.

Let me go back.

As noted, and as Bratt noted, the original indictment didn’t identify De Oliveira at all. He was just some “other” guy involved, an employee of the club. In fact, in its first indictment, DOJ used a curious dual form of naming. The following people are clearly identified:

  • Trump and Nauta
  • Trump Employee 1
  • Trump Employee 2 (Molly Michael)
  • PAC Representative (reportedly Susie Wiles)
  • Trump Representative 1 (probably Alex Cannon)
  • Trump Attorney 1 (Evan Corcoran)
  • Trump Attorney 2 (possibly Boris Epshteyn)
  • Trump Attorney 3 (Christina Bobb)

Then there are people who are not identified by name:

  • ¶6a, ¶34: the people to whom he showed the Iran document, and the two staffers (reportedly Margo Martin, who recorded it, and Liz Harrington) who witnessed the interview
  • ¶19: the high level intelligence officials who briefed Trump
  • ¶24: other members of Trump’s White House staff, in addition to Nauta, who helped pack up boxes
  • 58c: A female Trump family member
  • ¶61: an employee of The Mar-a-Lago Club (De Oliveira)
  • ¶72: others, including De Oliveira, who helped load up boxes to go to Bedminster

This new indictment adds three identified Trump employees:

  • Trump Employee 3: the co-worker — who would have been at Bedminster — who alerted Nauta that Trump wanted to see him
  • Trump Employee 4: the IT worker, probably Taveras
  • Trump Employee 5: a valet who was asked — and confirmed in a Signal chat with Nauta — that De Oliveira was loyal

And the indictment adds several more unidentified Trump employees, several of which (like the reference to the female Trump family member in the first) could be sourced entirely to communications obtained from Nauta’s phone.

  • ¶77: The attorney for TRUMP’s business organization
  • ¶79: The people to whom Nauta gave inconsistent explanations of why he was making a secret trip to Florida: one person Nauta told he would not travel with Trump and a Secret Service agent
  • ¶83: Another employee in the IT department
  • ¶84c: Supervisor of Security for Trump’s business organization

Significantly, the original indictment describes how DOJ obtained surveillance footage this way:

In July 2022, the FBI and grand jury obtained and reviewed surveillance video from The Mar-a-Lago Club showing the movement of boxes set forth above.

Though the search warrant affidavit had described that “counsel for the Trump Organization” had a role, the original indictment made no mention of that. It was like a virgin birth of surveillance footage, delivered to the FBI with no explanation.

The other figures described but not named in the superseding indictment may or may not appear in later installments of this tale, like a gun shown in an early act of a play that later goes off.

The last — supervisor of security — is almost certainly Matthew Calamari, Sr, who was one of the very last people to appear before the DC grand jury before this case was moved to Florida and charged. Both Calamari and his son were asked why Nauta texted one of them (it turns out to have been Sr.) to call him about the subpoena request.

Both Calamaris testified to the federal grand jury in Washington on Thursday, and were questioned in part on a text message that Trump’s valet, Walt Nauta, had sent them around the time that the justice department last year asked for the surveillance footage, one of the people said.

The text message is understood to involve Nauta asking Matthew Calamari Sr to call him back about the justice department’s request,

But that exchange is for another indictment, possibly even another venue.

In this indictment, though, the attorney for Trump Organization, almost certainly Alan Garten, plays two roles. First, he received the draft subpoena from Jay Bratt on June 22 (this begins to explain the discrepancy regarding the date of the subpoena that I’ve been obsessed with from the start). And he’s the most likely explanation for why, the next day, Trump called De Oliveira and spoke for 24 minutes.

That is, Garten likely told Trump about the subpoena, which set off a process by which employees attempted to destroy surveillance footage in Florida.

According to Michael Cohen’s testimony, Alan Garten is the one responsible for Cohen’s document production to Congress, which ended up withholding documents showing him contacting Dmitri Peskov’s office. And according to the SSCI Report, there were other, “known deficiencies in the Trump Organization’s document responses.”

While DOJ has interviewed Calamari (and so may or may not have gotten honest testimony about what happened when he called Nauta), they are not known to have interviewed Alan Garten, the bar for which would be very high. They have, however, interviewed Alina Habba, who played a role in a suspected Alan Garten shell game to withhold documents from New York State, and in the process did a search of both Bedminster and Mar-a-Lago before DOJ served a subpoena for classified documents.

In spite of all these new details and new players, we still don’t know what happened between June 27, 2022, when Trump Employee 4 told De Oliveiras to reach out to Matthew Calamari and when Trump spoke to De Oliveira for three and a half minutes, and July 6, when Trump Organization turned over two months of video that reportedly had gaps in it.

There are still gaps in this story about how the reported gaps got into the surveillance footage. Indeed, there are still gaps about what the gaps attempted to hide!

As I showed here, the surveillance footage the FBI did get appears to have shown virtually all of Nauta’s box movements — and would have shown De Oliveira helping Nauta move 30 boxes back into storage on June 2 — because the search warrant affidavit relies on it. But they may not have shown Walt Nauta remove a single box from storage on May 22.

That, of course, was just the first subpoena for surveillance footage. There were more, undoubtedly including for footage showing Nauta and De Oliveira checking out the surveillance cameras with a flashlight on June 25, 2022, entering the IT department, walking through a basement tunnel and into an “audio closet,” then walking back into the IT office on June 27, and possibly, still on June 27, walking into the bushes just off of Mar-a-Lago property for two discussions. This superseding indictment must rely on a later subpoena for more surveillance footage from which the specific times of these movements would have been obtained.

Indeed, when De Oliveira allegedly flooded the IT room in October — at a time when Judge Aileen Cannon had put a stay on the investigation of these activities — he may have been attempting to thwart a second or third subpoena attempt, a cover up of the attempted cover up, an attempt to destroy the surveillance footage that ended up in this indictment.

Altogether, the surveillance footage that DOJ has since obtained covers nine different months.

The initial production also included some 57 terabytes of compressed raw CCTV footage (so far there is approximately nine months of CCTV footage, but the final number is not yet certain).

DOJ claims to have pinpointed which cameras they wanted and on what specific dates.

The Government similarly identified to the Defendants a small subset of “key” CCTV footage referenced in the Indictment or otherwise pertinent to the case. See id. And although the CCTV footage the Government obtained and produced comes from various months, the Defendants’ characterization of the production as including “nine months of CCTV footage,” see Resp. at 4, is misleading. The Government obtained footage only from selected cameras (many of which do not continuously record) from selected dates throughout the period for which it obtained footage.

But there’s something in that surveillance footage that has made Trump very concerned about leaks, more so than he was about the documents seized last August.

This indictment provides shocking new details about Nauta and De Oliveiras’ alleged efforts to comply with Trump’s orders to destroy surveillance footage.

But it does not yet explain how reported gaps ended up in the surveillance footage.

And it doesn’t yet explain what Trump was trying to hide — what was worse than video showing Nauta emptying out the storage closet and then only half-filling it before Evan Corcoran did a search.

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125 replies
  1. Capemaydave says:

    “Indeed, when De Oliveira allegedly flooded the IT room in October — at a time when Judge Aileen Cannon had put a stay on the investigation of these activities — he may have been attempting to thwart a second or third subpoena attempt, a cover up of the attempted cover up, an attempt to destroy the surveillance footage that ended up in this indictment.”

    That stay looks worse and worse.

    Delicious

    • Rugger_9 says:

      That stay decision by Judge Cannon only looks worse if she knew this would happen. She probably did not, at most only responding to the demand by the defense team for a stay even though IIRC the defense was not very thorough in their explanation for it. While Judge Cannon has serious issues with her rulings, let’s not add conspiracy into the mix unless there is direct evidence tying her to Defendant-1’s coincidental motive. D-1 is smart enough not to leave a paper trail on this one.

      • Fraud Guy says:

        After Cannon’s Don appointed her to her seat, his attorneys filed for a stay in her court, and she merely followed that request until she was slapped down by a higher authority. There will be no paper trail or overt evidence, as everyone understood what was being asked for and provided, with no additional words needing to be spoken.

        • P’villain says:

          Saying Cannon conspired to obstruct justice is like saying the hammer conspired to pound in the nail. Tools don’t conspire, they get used.

      • Namouche says:

        Thank you so much for your beautiful – and therefore much more efficient (cue Bmaz) – constructive criticism. You are right on all counts (morally, legally…) and it is a joy to read, understand and nod to while being reminded of an important principle I, like the author, was in the process of forgetting. Why can’t Bmaz be more like all the rest of you. Sigh. Then I’d be able to hear what he has to share and learn from him instead of feeling immense anger at his blatant meanness.
        Dr. Wheeler. You amaze me. I not only learn, I improve the way I open my mouth thanks to people like you and your team (except Bmaz. I don’t get anything from him because he’s so vulgar, I tune out).
        Rayne: I think I only commented once years ago (put in my place for good reason over an innocent – but stupid – question) and have no idea what user name I might have used. Can I cure this? Thank you to the moon and back for your amazing site.

        [Moderator’s note: I can’t find a previous username associated with the email address you used. Stick with the username on this comment and we’ll be fine. Thanks. /~Rayne]

        • BrokenPromises says:

          I have had my fears and reactions to Bmaz as well but being a person with a diagnosis of defensive personality and aware of how that affects my interacting I can accept that other people have traits that don’t make them anything near the selfish cruelty of one individual or I should say individual one. I have even interacted addressing my concerns directly with Bmaz and while I remain nervous I am confident he does not carry a grudge against me. This is leading up to my noting that I find many of his posts about legalities and even the individuals we read of in the US legal system to be astute and valuable.
          I have read at least one article that was about how very intelligent people are often impatient with those of us who are not so adroit of wit. I cannot measure how smart Bmaz is but be assured he knows what he’s talking about. He like March certainly knows the law better than I ever will (IANAL). I also share his frustration with people who want to leap into this process of our rule of law as a means to seeing or abetting the worst possible outcome for that individual one. It would be nice if he shared some of his replies a dose of sugar or dollop of zen.

          • Hollygolightly says:

            All of this! I sincerely appreciate Bmaz’s knowledge. It’s a damn shame so much time and effort is wasted trying to look past the needlessly abrasive delivery. I often wince because of his tone, even while I am in the midst of learning something valuable. I keep trying to get past it, but, it’s relentless. Such a bummer. So unnecessary.

            • e.a. foster says:

              “needlessly abrasive” and other “complaints” re Bmaz’s “delivery”, he is a criminal lawyer in Arizona and don’t expect warm and fuzzy from him.
              He is smart, knowledgeable, sarcastic and the best laugh on the blog. Also great taste in music so the rest doesn’t matter.
              Yes his responses are short, but he is a lawyer and with lawyers, time is money. Keep it short and move along.

  2. klynn says:

    “This indictment provides shocking new details about Nauta and De Oliveiras’ alleged efforts to comply with Trump’s orders to destroy surveillance footage.

    But it does not yet explain how reported gaps ended up in the surveillance footage.”

    Is there any chance the security camera footage was set-up to backup to the cloud daily and “what” is in those gaps is known? (IANAL and IANIT!)

    Again, thank you for your ability to do close document reads and piecing of the facts presented!

    • emptywheel says:

      Well, they seem to have gotten at least some of the video. For example, they may have gotten the video from May 22, of Nauta taking a single box out, in follow-up efforts. They obviously got footage from different places.

      • klynn says:

        If the system was a hybrid of in camera/on-site storage with encrypted cloud back-up, that may be why the IT guy is involved? If so, oh my!

        • EuroTark says:

          Just about every surveillance system these days is digital, which means the footage is processed as a digital video stream. If you want to do anything with the stream other than watching it live, that means processing and storing it. I would not be surprised if the surveillance system involved is Off-The-Shelf and involves leveraging a cloud-provider (such as Amazon’s AWS or MicroSoft Azure) for that processing and storage.

              • Rayne says:

                *wheezy laughing*

                Not only do we need to corner the popcorn futures market, we have writing material for the next decade at this rate.

              • Tech Support says:

                Would just like to take this moment to note that Mar-a-Lago and/or the Trump Organization being a Microsoft shop is not informative in any way regarding the platform being used for the security cameras.

                PCs run Windows. Windows runs MS Office. Large enough pools of Windows computers need to be cohesively administered via Active Directory. The cloud-ification of IT means that it’s highly commonplace for workplace PC deployments to be using Office 365 (cloud based) and have their Active Directory administration via Azure (cloud based). This is especially true for smaller, non-tech companies who do not want to invest in the engineering labor necessary to maintain a full-blown suite of “on prem” infrastructure.

                Meanwhile, there are several competitors in the security camera space who started out in the pre-cloud analog era and have adapted to that and are not really tech companies in the classic sense (example: Lenel). Trump’s surveillance vendor could easily be an entity like that and even IF their platform does some sort of backup to AWS or Azure it could very easily be wholly separate from the corporate AD domain etc. etc. I’ve worked for multiple firms where the security system was wholly managed by the Facilities team and was a black box to the IT staff.

          • Spencer Dawkins says:

            Yes. IANAIT, although I used to be, but

            The initial production also included some 57 terabytes of compressed raw CCTV footage (so far there is approximately nine months of CCTV footage, but the final number is not yet certain).

            does make me think that doing cloud backups and/or migrating local storage into the cloud would make an IT guy’s life much easier, especially if any idiot could flood the local storage equipment. Just because the pool person didn’t succeed in damaging or destroying the local storage doesn’t mean someone else couldn’t have been more thorough …

            • Violater says:

              Agreed. I am wondering if anyone else heard that the flooding of the room housing servers and recording devices was not the first time that a room (maybe that room?) had been flooded. When I read it I figured we would hear more about it but have not. Has anyone else heard this?

      • InvaderZim says:

        A common configuration would be for the digital stream to be stored locally, with motion capture events being processed and backup.

        This configuration appears to me to be consistent with the legal filings and news coverage.

      • Benvindo Soares says:

        This is all odd . Is it possible that all of Trimps properties were under survellance during this time period. Could there be another open investigation that harvested all this data before this happened? I’ve always felt this crime was purposely constructted as a distraction. I thought Trimp like communictive documentation – and stays away from things with date and time stamps (email). It looks like he printed a gang of stuff on his last day in office.

          • Benvindo Soares says:

            Hi We’ve been through this.

            [Moderator’s note: Please either be far more inventive or knock off the cutesy names for Trump. As bmaz says it affects search on the site; you’re also helping to DDoS the thread by causing more unrelated commentary. Focus on the post’s topic, add something constructive to the discussion, or take a back seat. Let me add you do not want to “been through this” with me. /~Rayne]

            • theartistvvv says:

              I’m just another reader here but I want to underline that not only is the name-calling juvenile, it is annoying enough that you have now made my list of the ignored.

              • Benvindo Soares says:

                Ok .

                Understood- BMAZ .

                Dare I say , our relationship has the makings of a great success story.

                I shall refer to him as DJT – if acceptable ? As I said before the so – called former President is not worthy of my respect – until he himself apologizes to the Obama family in their interiety for questioning their families historical documentation and provenance – and using it just as slave owners did to Africans – to the benifit of their ill gotten ends.

                Once again the child in me – apologizes to all on here- for the trifle …including theartistvvv !!

                Sincerly I and I ,

                • Benvindo Soares says:

                  ~Rayne – I do not know much.

                  But what you’re putting down – I know. It will not happen again – any creative generally acceptable Trump pseudonym’s greatly appreciated …. lol

  3. scroogemcduck says:

    Speculating, but maybe Trump Employee 4, Yuscil Taveras, decided after his conversation with De Oliveira that he was being lined up for some serious jail-time and he made sure all of surveillance footage was backed up as an insurance policy.

    • atriana smith says:

      That was my first thought.

      Sometimes sysadmins move instead of delete and then wait to see if anyone screams and only delete once they’re sure no one needs something. Especially smaller operators that don’t have budgets for complex on/offsite backup solutions.

    • Tech Support says:

      The one comment that the NYT attributes to Yuscil Taveras is his statement that he’s “not sure” the server can be “deleted.”

      Again based on my experience with small orgs that don’t have mature IT departments, it’s very possible that Yuscil is essentially a Desktop Support technician who is asked to be chief, cook, and bottle washer of all things IT. That would mean he likely has the capacity to deploy systems that are more complex but the operational details and support are handled via vendor support contracts. If that scenario holds, then Yuscil likely knew just enough about the platform to know that he could throw the server off a bridge and that wouldn’t help them do anything about the data.

      • Rayne says:

        And if you know something as Tech Support, you’re aware that IT storage providers like Iron Mountain have backups of backups, incremental and full. Just because files are deleted or a server’s storage wiped doesn’t mean all incrementals and full backups have also been deleted.

        l’ve been waiting for someone, anyone to point this out, or how obviously ignorant de la Oliveira must be of server operations and backups to assume flooding an IT room with pool water would take care the problem he was tasked to solve.

        • Bruce Olsen says:

          Correct. Pool water won’t have the desired action.

          He knew that he needed to acid-wash the server, but must have forgotten his high school chemistry: the chlorine used to disinfect a pool creates a base, not an acid.

          After that I suspect he advised De Oliveira and Nauta to “bring light inside the server” to disinfect the videos, hence the trip down the hallway.

          He has just the best brain, doesn’t he?

  4. anaphoristand says:

    If Stanley Woodward’s representation of Waltine Nauta wasn’t already unbearably conflicted, it’s hard to see how fellow Woodward client Trump Employee 4/Yuscil Taveras’ now apparently critical role in Nauta’s prosecution lessens that conflict.

  5. EuroTark says:

    Very interesting, and a good catch! Question from a non-lawyer: Is Alan Garten at any risk of being swept up in the obstruction charges?

  6. Discontinued Barbie says:

    All of this horrible opsec has me confused about wealthy people criming. On one hand, this man has all the power in the world, and on the other he has a valet doing a horrible job at the dirty work to try to keep him out of trouble. Half the time I think that the former POTUS watches T.V. and wants his own Doug Stamper. But Michael Kelly’s character was way smarter and more capable than these fools ever could imagine being. Trump doesn’t seem to be surrounded by master level criminal sycophants.

    • bgThenNow says:

      I once had a boss who had to have trustworthy employees because we handled a lot of cash. He described how someone who was stealing was set up and caught. “Thieves are lazy,” he told me, “And that’s why they get caught, because they are too lazy to do the work.” The coverup is hard work, more so when the job involves a lot of people, as in this case.

      I keep going back to Marcy’s post on the phone data, location data. I imagine some gaps in the surveillance tapes can be linked to location data from phones.

      • P J Evans says:

        My mother read mysteries. In a lot of police procedurals, they make the point that most criminals aren’t all that bright. (One had the descriptions “they can reason from A to B, and from C to D” and “they can sit all day contemplating two contradictory things side by side”.)

    • RitaRita says:

      Trump would want someone whose loyalty to him he trusts and who is not curious or courageous enough to question why the boss wants something done. Asking a low level employee to do the dirty work also protects the Calamari’s, who probably know where a lot of bodies are buried.

      • LaMissy! says:

        As to the Calamaris and buried bodies: guess who was on the doors doing security at Ivana Trump’s residence after her body was found? Yep, the Calamaris.

        In Harry Hurt III’s biography of Trump, “Lost Tycoon”, (which also detailed Ivana’s later retracted rape accusation), Hurt describes Trump goading his then bodyguard Calamari into saying he would do anything for Trump, even kill someone.

        • RipNoLonger says:

          Fascinating. Poor Ivana having such an unexpected fall. Wonder if her princess daughter felt any pangs of guilt. Doesn’t look like it – $2B will make her almost a barbie.

    • Tech Support says:

      Trump surrounds himself with people based on their obedience and loyalty. Competence is a secondary concern.

      IMO, highly competent people are unlikely to be loyal to individuals whose own competence is questionable and who feel compelled to meddle in the matters of the experts they (try to) employ.

    • boatgeek says:

      Maybe lousy opsec was originally a feature not a bug. For most of its life, MAL was a social club, where gossip and little secrets are currency. If someone got spotted groping a housekeeper, the old boys club would laugh about it at tee time or over cigars. For something more serious like the pool boy spotted leaving the Falwell’s suite, Trump can make a big production of calling Nauta in and telling him to wipe the tape.

      Either way, Trump wouldn’t be so gauche as to literally blackmail anyone. He’d just remind them about how he “took care of” that little problem and leave the person wondering if the tape had been erased.

      As long as the criming was all happening in the financial office, this all worked great. Then Trump had the misfortune to get himself elected president and got into much deeper criminal waters. By then, the lousy opsec leopard couldn’t change its spots and he’s in big trouble.

  7. BobBobCon says:

    FYI, I think the link “(identified in this story from NYT)” regarding the IT employee should go to the 5/31 article headlined “Prosecutors Scrutinize Handling of Security Footage by Trump Aides in Documents Case” since the current link doesn’t mention an IT employee.

  8. Brian Ruff says:

    These guys took that whole “White House plumbers” moniker seriously!
    I can hear Trump: “these fucking (insert racist label here) will fuck up the simplest shit”, like the mob boss he craves to be.
    Any chance “the Boss” got caught on the tape, hence the gaps?

  9. Val Brumel says:

    About those two subpoenas of June 22/24.

    So DOJ first sent a “draft subpoena” for “certain security camera footage”, and two days later a much more sweeping “final subpoena” (“any and all records, videos, images, photographs and/or CCTV”). As non-lawyer I just can’t make sense of that. Is it normal to receive a draft, and why would prosecutors do this?

    [Thanks for updating your username to meet the 8 letter minimum. /~Rayne]

    • flounder says:

      This is exactly what I want to know. What possible good, from an investigative standpoint, could come from providing draft subpoenas to people under investigation? The only possible thing I can think of (that isn’t just giving Trump a legal “Safe Space”) is there was another warrant under seal that was already active on devices and things like that, and DOJ was using the draft subpoena to catch them in the act of obstruction.

      • Mike_29JUL2023_1023h says:

        While it would be better to give the attorney a final subpoena, the earlier draft serves as a litigation hold notice, requiring the organization to take immediate steps to secure the data. So, for example, if backup tapes overwrite after so many days, they would be required to stop that process. They would be required to take steps to protect the data from destruction.

        [Welcome to emptywheel. Please choose and use a unique username with a minimum of 8 letters. We are moving to a new minimum standard to support community security. Because your username is far too common (there are many Mikes/Michaels in this community) it will be temporarily changed to match the date/time of your first known comment until you have a new compliant username. Please also omit any entry in the URL field unless you have a personal website. Thanks. /~Rayne]

    • Bruce Olsen says:

      What if DoJ already knew all the video was available at an offsite backup? Would they request it from Trump just to observe his response? Is that only done in fiction?

  10. Chuffles says:

    “ what was worse than video showing Nauta emptying out the storage closet and then only half-filling it before Evan Corcoran did a search.”

    Indeed. It’s the kind of thing that someone does when they are personally incriminated, and/or there are people on the footage who need to be protected.

    How DJT is running around free right now still amazes me. I just don’t get why he’s not in jail or out on bail.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      He’s not a flight risk or an imminent physical danger to himself or others, that’s why. Until allegations are proven in court beyond a reasonable doubt and survive appeal, they’re just suspicions that are insufficient to deprive someone of their liberty.

      • Chuffles says:

        Reality Winner and Jack Texeira might agree with you on that.

        I’m not so sure he’s not a threat to others. He appears to be threatening Jack Smith and his family, based on some of his Truths.

        (sorry for the double, browser went wonky)

    • BirdGardener says:

      Regarding this: “or there are people on the footage who need to be protected”—has Trump ever tried to protect anyone other than himself? Even when he’s offering to pay for other people’s lawyers, there’s an obvious personal benefit in giving them a reason not to flip. I’ve never seen him aid anyone unless he thinks he’s getting more from the transaction than he’s giving.

      • Chuffles says:

        He would be protecting himself if someone from, say, Saudi Arabia, China or Russia was caught on video. I was specifically vague, however, because it could be nothing or it could be DJT himself on the videos.

        Regardless, the whole thing is fairly clownish, in terms of security. Not being able to produce video surveillance footage further increases the ramifications of carelessness…I mean, not only are the ballroom and chandelier toilet not a SCIF, but they don’t have redundancy built into their CCTV system? Doubtful…

  11. John Paul Jones says:

    Was going to note yesterday that the “chat in the bushes” bit stuck out for me. They’re suddenly nervous about cameras and so hie them off the property on the assumption that they can’t be spotted, forgetting that they will be spotted, on camera, moving off the property, and likely picked up on other cameras.

  12. Christy Hardin Smith says:

    It occurs to me that for Trump, that surveillance footage and the frequent camera placement around the resort may have been for security purpose, but also may have represented potential for using that footage strategically. He’s been known for years to employ info as threat or blackmail to pressure people into giving him what he wants, wouldn’t it stand to reason that there would be some sort of automatic back-up system for the digital data, because you never know when you could turn someone’s hallway grope of a maid at your resort into an investment goldmine, right? If he gets hoisted on his own gutter level smarm tactics, it will be karma on a grand scale.

    • Rayne says:

      That could dovetail very nicely with Russia’s hacking of RNC’s emails in 2016. Imagine a dossier on GOP electeds and donors who’ve been at Mar-a-Lago (and other Trump org properties) and in the emails. It’s no wonder Trump maintains a stranglehold on the GOP.

      The candidates primarying him are those who likely have little in their dossiers and are also lackluster dull.

      Btw, nice to see you in comments!

      • jdmckay8 says:

        That could dovetail very nicely with Russia’s hacking of RNC’s emails in 2016.

        Lev Parnas is now swaying Russian (spooks of some kind) got Hunter really drunk, then imaged his hard drive while Hunter was resting. That [Rayne]could dovetail very nicely[/Rayne] into all kinds of interesting stuff. Also if true, would fit nicely into Marcy’s working theory of how that Mac passed through the hands of quite a few people with means and motive to alter the Mac’s contents.

        • zscoreUSA says:

          Is the timeline offered by Lev Parnas consistent with that? I believe Parnas is referring to 2019 since Parnas earlier writes Giuliani approached him Nov 2018. Is there evidence Hunter was in Kazakhstan in 2019? Could the information given to Parnas be a red herring to cover & distract from other means of data theft?

          Parnas letter:
          “At the same time, the BLT Team was exploring many different angles to get information on the Bidens. In June [2019, right?], Giuliani asked me to accompany him to a lunch in New York with Vitaly Pruss, a Russian businessman who claimed to have deep connections to Burisma, including with Hunter Biden’s business partner Devon Archer, and had recommended powerful people to Zlochevsky that he should put on the company’s board. During this meeting, Pruss shared a story with us: He said earlier that year [2019?], while doing business related to Burisma, he had taken Hunter Biden to meet Kazakhstan’s minister of foreign affairs, and that Biden had gotten substantially intoxicated with drugs and alcohol on this trip. While he was incapacitated, his laptop was compromised and copied by a representative of FSB Russia’s secret police) and members of Zlochevsky’s team.”

    • elcajon64 says:

      I’m reminded of Trump’s assertions that he was being surveilled by the previous administration. Combine that with his propensity to project and this seems unsurprising.

    • timbozone says:

      Seems that once the draft subpeona of the security footage was made known to the Trump team, any one on that teamaware of this, from Trump on down, >mightany< potentially embarrassing footage that might come to light, whether directly related to the proposed subpeona's scope or not. Basically, whatever might be on the security footage might then become government, employer, SO, etc knowledge, with the additional much increased chance that the public/press et al might also get ahold of that information.

  13. Mycotropic says:

    57 terabytes over 9 months is a larger pile of data than 45 days, were they simply incorrect in how and where the security system stored data? I have a single camera pointed at my car that’s triggered by a motion detector but I don’t let it see the cloud at all. It generates piles of files that I have to manually purge, I’d guess that an out of the box solution for an org like trumps would be set to store years of data remotely and that data would be backed up regularly to tape. “Flood the server room” is a Don Knotts reaction to that subpoena!

    • emptywheel says:

      They went back for more. It’s not just 45 days (and in any case, it looks like Trump Org retained for 60 days, not 45).

  14. boatgeek says:

    What I can’t get over in this whole story is how nobody seems to understand the concept of burner phones. You do your illegal activity on one set of phones, and you regularly burn them. You keep your primary phones clean with enough regular business to seem plausible. It doesn’t seem that complicated. It would make all the sense in the world that some random set of phones would show up at MAL for a month and then disappear, never to be seen again–it’s a resort so that must happen all the time.

    Maybe the man at the top has trouble remembering which phone to use?

    • Fraud Guy says:

      Remember he has a history of borrowing phones from associates for certain calls.

      Also, too, with the number of people in his association who been in the loop for his many and varied legal peccadillos who likely don’t want random callers hitting their cell phones, they probably wouldn’t answer if a random burner phone was used.

      And finally, Trump is notorously cheap. IIRC, the more successfuly burner phone schemes from criminals usually swap out phones on a weekly to monthly basis. Can you imagine how Trump would respond to that level of expense for a few dozen phones a month?

    • Sunflores says:

      They caught the Long Island serial killer because he bought his burner phone with a credit card.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        OpSec is not for everyone. I’ve seen more incriminating credit card purchases, but that’s a doozy.

      • jecojeco says:

        Astute observation. Requesting video directly from the party being investigated is basic but knowing that there is 3rd party “cloud” backup to everything subpoenaed creates a trap for anyone foolish enough to try to edit out the most incriminating scenes in response to subpoenas. If some MAL videos were edited by trump org in NYC that could lead to a separate indictment outside of Cannon’s control in FL. A macro rat trap similar to the micro rat trap of waving around a draft subpoena for a day to see if it elicited a criminal response from trump – which it did immediately. DOJ/FBI know their suspect

        trump, his org & MAL staff probably have a low level of tech sophistication so there will be ham-handed coverup attempts. I suspect Calamaris have gotten other trump video edit requests over the years.

        After telling him about the draft subpoena trump’s attorneys must have re-warned him not to mess with the requested records, which he immediately ignored and went for the cheese in the trap. What attorney would want to spend the next couple of years representing a client like this? (Aside from LOTS of billable time!)

  15. PeteT0323 says:

    Looks like Employee-4 wasn’t about to “delete a server”.

    So Waltine, De Oliveira, and Trump devised a plan to drown the server room. That’ll delete a server – at least its local storage – perhaps.

    Takes me back to 1992 when Hurricane Andrew mowed down Burger King’s HQ sitting right on Biscayne Bay about 18 miles south of Miami. Now, the “good news” is that the main servers were 8 miles inland in a hardened facility that sustained limited damage – no water intrusion. But the HQ site server room for common business systems was at or slightly below sea level and Andrew deleted a lot of their servers – and on-site backup storage. There was no cloud back then – just daily Iron Mountain for tapes and stuff.

    I got to see that room – and day after pics of it – a month or so later. Yuck.

    Yeah emptying a swimming pool into a below grade server room at Mar-a-Lago will kill servers pretty dead. But that cloud backup storage…

  16. WilliamOckham says:

    There’s one bit of technical information that would be very useful. For the motion-activated cameras, did they use some form of linked list to identify the order of the footage? Here’s what I mean.

    Camera1 (identifies which camera generated the file)
    2022-10-20T07:48:03-4:00 (The time the recording began)
    0000043 (The 43rd time since the beginning of the period that the camera was activated)

    That last bit is essential. You can’t know if there are gaps unless you have an identifier that places the recording in a sequence. And in the computer world, those identifiers are almost always positive integers. I can’t imagine someone designing a digital security camera system without this capability. Although, I have to say, I encounter unimaginably poor system design fairly regularly in the day job.

    Anyway, if the system has that capability, it’s unlikely that a digital attack would result in uncertainty about whether footage had been deleted. If the feds still have reason to believe that someone accessed the storage room (or wherever) and there’s no footage, then we’d be looking at a physical attack (disabling a camera temporarily, for example).

    • ToldainDarkwater says:

      I’ve seen security feeds and footage with an on-screen overlaid time-date stamp. Which would be another way one could note gaps.

      • Matt___B says:

        Only if the time/date stamps overlaid correspond with actual time/date. It’s way too easy to not set them (or set them incorrectly). Saying this because I inherited a front porch camera that was installed and is maintained by my neighbor (lives behind me in a duplex) and he gave me access to the camera. When I look at the real-time images from the camera right now, the overlaid date says “4/13/70 Mon 14:29”, so in this case the date, day and time are all incorrect. But nobody here cares about that.

        • Ewan Woodsend says:

          Date “0” is Jan 1st 1970, 00h00m0s by default. It starts when it is switched on. You can set the date manually forward and backward, so the time stamp isn’t reliable for sequencing. But usually except a hard reset + return to factory default has been done, there is an incremental internal numbering system, which is probably what they used to detect gaps.

    • burnitclean says:

      The systems I’m familiar with have this capability and it’s easy to identify gaps in the videos at a glance. I find it a bit curious that they apparently used a physical server located at MAL since it’s so cheap and convenient to just spin a server up at the cloud computing service of your choice. However, Trump’s legendary cheapness and his desire for control might explain this. The hardware requirements for these types of servers are tiny and just about any old desktop that is past its prime could be repurposed to run your surveillance cameras and store the video.

    • eschneider says:

      For most modern video security systems, the video is encoded with extra data that will reveal if the video has been modified or edited. I developed such systems for over a decade and at the beginning, folks from the company would often get called to verify these facts in court and I can assure you that we could in fact do that.

  17. Bugboy321 says:

    Just a note on a line I’ve seen mistyped elsewhere:

    “…he did not believe he would have the rights to do that.”

    I’ve seen it written as “the RIGHT to do that”, which totally changes the meaning of what the employee was saying. In IT lingo “rights to do that” means administrative rights one possesses to take certain actions on a server. So, it was a matter of a technical ability to carry out that action contingent on what administrative rights he had, which apparently he did not.

    • soundgood2 says:

      This seems like an important point to me. It could mean that the IT guy wasn’t unwilling to help out “the Boss” he was just unable, hence the attempt to flood the room. The question would be, who was? I heard somewhere that there was an outside IT company that handled the cameras that was subpoenaed? Not sure if that is correct but it would make sense that Trump would keep the control of the video close and in the hands of someone more competent and more clearly loyal, aka, the Calamaris. It would be interesting to find out the intricacies of the system and who had the overall authority and ability to make changes. I’m sure the DOJ knows more than they are saying in the indictments.

      • Bugboy321 says:

        I’ve been on high alert ever since the RWNJ Wurlitzer machine went on an extended effort to conflate “systemic racism” with “systematic racism”. A single omitted letter that changes the meaning of a sentence strikes me as neither accidental nor unintentional.

      • Operandi says:

        In the same conversation where he says he didn’t have the rights, he also says they’d need to rope in what sounds like Calamari Sr. (84.c. in the new indictment.)

        Trump Employee 4 responded that he would not know how to do that, and that he did not believe that he would have the rights to do that. Trump Employee 4 told DE OLIVEIRA that DE OLIVEIRA would have to reach out to another employee who was a supervisor of security for Trump’s business organization.

        Now. Maybe #4 was lying about his level of access. Take it from an IT pro: we’re great at finding excuses to not do things we don’t want to do. Given this conversation (intentionally held in private) has found its way into the indictment, it’s clear #4 possess some level of self-preservation instinct (not always a trait found in Trump employees). He might not have wanted to get roped into obvious skullduggery. But it’s also not hard to believe that the on-site admin didn’t have the level of access needed to scrub all the corners of the full Trumpworld wide surveillance system (I still have a lot of open questions about the precise technical details of their surveillance).

        Either way, from context, it was clearly a claim about technical permissions (rights, plural) and not moral authority (right, singular).

          • Operandi says:

            Appreciate the correction. Always hard to keep the dramatis personae straight. I’m impressed how Marcy does it seemingly effortlessly.

            Though, funnily enough, Marcy just tweeted an excerpt from previous reporting that suggests Nauta might’ve ultimately ended up taking this matter to Sr. instead of Jr. (and even the prosecutors started to get the two Calamaris roles in everything mixed up, lol):
            https://twitter.com/emptywheel/status/1685061690797289473?s=20

          • harpie says:

            [Putting this here, because there’s more room]
            There seems to be a little confusion in the Guardian article Marcy links to in that tweet from Operandi:

            […] Both Calamaris testified to the federal grand jury in Washington on Thursday, and were questioned in part on a text message that Trump’s valet, Walt Nauta, had sent them around the time that the justice department last year asked for the surveillance footage, one of the people said.

            The text message is understood to involve Nauta asking Matthew Calamari Sr to call him back about the justice department’s request, one of the people said – initially a point of confusion for the justice department, which appears to have thought the text was to Calamari Jr. […]

  18. thorvold says:

    Some observations,
    The property with the bushes just off the Mar-a-Lago property appears to be the property between 124 and 136 Woodbridge Rd on the north side of Mar-a-Lago. Google Maps aerial photography appear to show that property as being open on the Mar-a-Lago side, but having a hedge on the Woodbridge Rd side. In the 2015 photos available on Google Street view at 124 Woodbridge Rd, there is a dirt path through the hedge next to the driveway. I would assume that the Secret Service would have closed that off when Trump became president and they secured the property, but I don’t have any proof of that. I also noticed that sometime between May and Oct 2022 Google Street view pictures, the landscaping changed and signs went up along the Ocean Blvd in front of Mar-a-Lago that appear to have the Secret Service logo on them, but I’m not sure why they would have only gone up after Trump’s presidency is over.

    The houses at 124 and 136 Woodbridge Rd both appear to have lights or cameras mounted under the eaves…I wonder whether they got video from that.

    I wonder whether that open lot was the local “smokers corner”, or whether they had a reason to go off-property.

    • P J Evans says:

      I remember last year when this started, there was a property ownership map posted that showed that Trumpco owned the property at the corner of Woodbridge, next to MaL.

      • thorvold says:

        Looks like you are right. The property on the corner at 1094 S Ocean Blvd is owned by DT Venture I LLC (Trump). The next house in at 124 Woodbridge is owned by DTW Venture LLC (also Trump). Palm Beach county records have that property also owning the vacant lot I mentioned above that is next to 124, but separated by a hedge. 136 Woodbridge appears to be a single family owner-occupied home.

        The 3 properties that are across Ocean Blvd from Mar-a-Lago also appear to owned by Trump as well.

            • Rugger_9 says:

              If one believes the scuttlebutt, it would be the less fashionable outer reaches (like these properties) because Lake’s already annoyed Trump.

          • RipNoLonger says:

            Aren’t there a huge set of labyrinthine caves where (s)he feeds her lusts? Not sure how I can work this into MaL but I try.

        • P J Evans says:

          My job involved reading a lot of maps, and being able to remember things for a while was a good thing. (I started to get a rep for being able to find stuff.)

          {ETA: “Oh, *that* location. What they did was…” or “yeah, there’s this huge oak, so the line makes a 90 turn, goes 15 feet to the centerline, makes another 90, goes 30 feet, and the same offset as it returns to the original line.”]

        • jecojeco says:

          Go to Google Earth to see the properties proximity to where trump jiggled his belly to the Village People.

          Just think, this will all belong to us if DOJ does seizure of MAL. Jack Smith doesn’t have a hair on his asss if they don’t seize trump props if they were used to hide stolen defense docs. DOJ does this to numerous “little people”, if Garland is going to stick with his “equal justice” theme he won’t flinch with this.

          • BirdGardener says:

            MAL is a money sink; a number of organizations, including the US gov’t, turned it down when it was offered as a gift.

            By 1968, according to other papers in the archive, Post had turned to Plan B: Mar-a-Lago as winter White House, property of the United States. After she died, in 1973, at age 86, the Post Foundation pursued the idea. But in 1981, the federal government declined, for the same reason the Floridians and the Smithsonian did.

            https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/history-mar-a-lago-180965214/

            In other words, we don’t want it!

            I read somewhere, back in 2017, that Trump planned to offload MAL by gifting it to the US when he was done with it. Obviously he changed his mind after he decided to show that he hates NYC more than NYC hates him.

    • timbozone says:

      From my memory of the online maps available at the time, there was evidence of construction work going on around that time last summer.

  19. BrokenPromises says:

    Marcy
    I am confused by an apparent timing discrepancy in the narratively brilliant section the last two entries: #76. On June 23, 2022, at 8:46 p.m., then after the snip #87. At 3:55 p.m.,
    I can see where #76 might be a simple typo and the event was at at 8:46 AM or it might be that the intervening paragraphs reveal that the #87 time is from a later date.
    Can you clarify?

    If it’s made clear in the following sections of your post I apologize for not comprehending that. I blame comprehension losses on my advancing years.

  20. Twinkie defense says:

    “what was worse than video showing Nauta emptying out the storage closet and then only half-filling it before Evan Corcoran did a search.”

    Maybe Trump sneaking his leather-bound box of goodies out of the storage room and into his office?

  21. Savage Librarian says:

    Trump Employee 1, as reported by ABC in June, is Hayley Harrison (wife of William Harrison, aka Beau.) Beau was someone Cassidy Hutchinson mentioned.

    Hayley is an aide to Melania. As Marcy mentioned previously, Haley’s maiden name is D’Antuono. But she, allegedly, is not related to Steven D’Antuono, who left his FBI post late last year.

    (ABC article is: “Top Trump campaign aide identified as key individual in classified docs indictment: Sources” – 6/28/23)

  22. Sean Sullivan says:

    “And it doesn’t yet explain what Trump was trying to hide — what was worse than video showing Nauta emptying out the storage closet and then only half-filling it before Evan Corcoran did a search.”

    What could be worse than having the documents is sharing them. So video that might show someone else – a non MAL/Trump employee – accessing the storage room might be particularly problematic. And I have always been intrigued by Nauta’s request for new box tops.

  23. David F. Snyder says:

    The entire section is bookended with these paragraphs, which — and I say this as a PhD in Comparative Literature — are narratively brilliant.

    This comment made me smile. McSweeney’s Internet Emporium could feature a (humorous) lit crit review of the superseding indictment. That would be entertaining.l

  24. Sean Sullivan says:

    “And it doesn’t yet explain what Trump was trying to hide — what was worse than video showing Nauta emptying out the storage closet and then only half-filling it before Evan Corcoran did a search.”

    I would think video evidence of sharing materials would be worse than possessing them. So any video of someone not a MAL/Trump employee accessing the storage area would be very dangerous. And I’ve always been intrigued by Nauta’s request for new box tops because he “wrote too much on them.”

  25. jatry says:

    regarding gaps: the gaps are not described. Does the system record constantly and there are minor gaps … which would look sketch like the 18 missing nixonian minutes. Or is it possible that the cameras are motion activated so gaps would be … expected and normal.
    in any case thanks for all the heavy lifting. appreciate it.

    [Welcome to emptywheel. Please choose and use a unique username with a minimum of 8 letters. We are moving to a new minimum standard to support community security. Thanks. /~Rayne]

  26. RipNoLonger says:

    Just to piggy-back on the prior comment by jatry.

    The gaps in various surveillance media may be due to to source/technical issues, or because someone was able to erase the content, or because the US DOJ is not telling us what it actually has in hand.

    My hopes and expectations are that the prosecution has more evidence at this point than it is releasing to the targets.

  27. Savage Librarian says:

    I wonder why Trump Employee 5 (a valet) was asked if De Oliveira (the property manager) was loyal. It suggests that he was esteemed as trustworthy and was a good judge of others’ motivations. Maybe he is a longtime employee. Or maybe he is valued for other reasons.

    It seems noteworthy, though, that both Nauta and the PAC Representative were willing to accept Trump Employee 5’s assessment of De Oliveira.

    • pdaly says:

      My first reaction was surprise that 3 valets (Nauta, TE5, and DeOliveira a current property manager but former valet) don’t implicitly trust one another.

      Perhaps as TE5 had eyes on the ground at MAL, TE5 was in a position to witness the real-time reactions of DeOliveira as Trump’s legal woes became public news.

      Curious to know if Nauta/Trump were looking for any specific reaction that would have marked DeOliveira as not worthy of legal representation. Or was this just a reflex developed by years of working in the Trump circle? Where was Trump loyalty test interviewer Johnny McEntee during this period?

  28. Spank Flaps says:

    (Red meat for bmaz)
    Is it possible the gaps in the security film could contain footage of Aliens, Elvis, Bigfoot and JFK?

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