Carlos De Oliveira Added a Lock to the Storage Facility Then (Claimed He) Gave Away the Key

My second favorite bullshit spin of the entire stolen documents investigation (the first being claims about Walt Nauta’s cooperation) is the way, in the days after the search of Mar-a-Lago, Trump got journalists to repeat his claim that the fact he replaced the lock on the storage room at Mar-a-Lago proved he was entirely cooperative with DOJ before the search.

Here’s how WSJ presented the claim in one of its first instances:

Aides to Mr. Trump have said they had been cooperating with the department to get the matter settled. The former president even popped into the June 3 meeting at Mar-a-Lago, shaking hands. “I appreciate the job you’re doing,” he said, according to a person familiar with the exchange. “Anything you need, let us know.”

Five days later, Trump attorney Evan Corcoran received an email from Mr. Bratt, the chief of the Justice Department’s counterintelligence and export control section, who oversees investigations involving classified information.

“We ask that the room at Mar-a-Lago where the documents had been stored be secured and that all the boxes that were moved from the White House to Mar-a-Lago (along with any other items in that room) be preserved in that room in their current condition until further notice,” according to what was read to The Wall Street Journal over the phone.

Mr. Corcoran wrote back, “Jay, thank you. I write to acknowledge receipt of this letter. With best regards, Evan.” By the next day, according to a person familiar with the events, a larger lock was placed on the door. It was the last communication between the men until Monday’s search of Mar-a-Lago, according to the person.


Mr. Trump and his lawyers contend they have cooperated with a monthslong effort by the government to retrieve some of the material he took from the White House and expressed outrage with Monday’s unannounced visit to Mar-a-Lago. A timeline of events, they say, demonstrates this cooperation, down to quickly fulfilling the June request to place a new lock on the storage door.

Here’s how John Solomon presented the claim in a post that first broke the news of the surveillance video subpoena.

Trump signaled his full cooperation, telling the agents and prosecutor, “Look, whatever you need let us know,” according to two eyewitnesses. The federal team was surprised by the president’s invitation and asked for an immediate favor: to see the 6-foot-by-10-foot storage locker where his clothes, shoes, documents and mementos from his presidency were stored at the compound.

Given Trump’s instruction, the president’s lawyers complied and allowed the search by the FBI before the entourage left cordially. Five days later, DOJ officials sent a letter to Trump’s lawyers asking them to secure the storage locker with more than the lock they had seen. The Secret Service installed a more robust security lock to comply.

Around the same time, the Trump Organization, which owns Mar-a-Lago, received a request for surveillance video footage covering the locker and volunteered the footage to federal authorities, sources disclosed.

It was always clear this was bullshit, not least because CFR guidelines about storing classified documents are really strict. But journalists repeated it credulously for several weeks, until the affidavit was unsealed, showing that in Jay Bratt’s request that Trump secure the storage room, he never mentioned a lock.

On June 8, 2022, DOJ COUNSEL sent FPOTUS COUNSEL 1 a letter, which reiterated that the PREMISES are not authorized to store classified information and requested the preservation of the STORAGE ROOM and boxes that had been moved from the White House to the PREMISES. Specifically, the letter stated in relevant part:

As I previously indicated to you, Mar-a-Lago does not include a secure location authorized for the storage of classified information. As such, it appears that since the time classified documents (the ones recently provided and any and all others) were removed from the secure facilities at the White House and moved to Mar-a-Lago on or around January 20, 2021, they have not been handled in an appropriate manner or stored in an appropriate location. Accordingly, we ask that the room at Mar-a-Lago where the documents had been stored be secured and that all of the boxes that were moved from the White House to Mar-a-Lago (along with any other items in that room) be preserved in that room in their current condition until further notice.

On June 9, 2022, FPOTUS COUNSEL 1 sent an email to DOJ COUNSEL, stating, “I write to acknowledge receipt of this letter.”

But buried in this Devlin Barrett story about how prosecutors warned Carlos De Oliveira’s attorney, John Irving, that they believed he was lying way back in April is the BREAKING NEWS that after De Oliveira put a new lock on the door — the thing that Trump bragged about for a month, and a tale that Barrett repeats here — he gave away the key.

Or at least that’s the excuse he gave to the FBI when they showed up in August to seize the documents inside and he refused to let them into the storage closet.

Agents had another concern: The lock on the door to the storage room was flimsy. The officials urged staff to put a better lock on the door, which De Oliveira did — using a hasp and a padlock to keep it secure, the people said. If there were still highly sensitive classified documents in the room, such a lock was far from sufficient, but it was better than nothing.


When FBI agents arrived at Mar-a-Lago the morning of Aug. 8 with a court-issued search warrant, De Oliveira was one of the first people they turned to. They asked him to unlock a storage room where boxes of documents were kept, people familiar with what happened said. De Oliveira said he wasn’t sure where the key was, because he’d given it to either the Secret Service agents guarding the former president or staffers for Trump’s post-presidency office, the people said.

Frustrated, the agents simply cut the lock on the gold-colored door. [snip]

Imagine how outraged investigators must have been last August when Trump was publicly bragging about the new lock when the currently operative story at the time — one that may still be operative — is that within weeks, Oliveira had given away the key.

To whom, he did not know.

I’ve got a lot of guesses about who may really have gotten that key.

But the stunning news from this story is that Trump put a new lock on the storage facility and promptly gave away the key.

95 replies
  1. Kevin_29JUL2023_1012h says:

    So we totally are going to get video of Trump using this key to enter and exit with classified material, aren’t we?

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    • Buzzkill Stickinthemud says:

      Are courtroom audiences and jurors allowed to laugh out loud when presented evidence has comedic value?

    • Yankee in Texas says:

      Trump will be there wearing a Green Hornet mask and 6 inch heels to conceal his identity, but with his trademark wig and extra long tie. Walt will be there to actually move and carry off the Boss’s boxes in a full while wearing a full Kato outfit.

  2. mike stone says:

    DOJ should check out the nearest hardware store to determine how many copies of the keys were made since the foreign agents would each want a key after paying for access.

    • gertibird says:

      For the documents stored in the bathroom buyers didn’t even need a key. They were provided a private viewing area which they could lock while they were inside.

      • Rachel_29JUL2023_1530h says:

        I believe the boxes we saw in the ballroom and bathroom were pictures taken by staff or lawyers and were eventually put into the storage room

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  3. RitaRita says:

    Great property manager. He gives away the key to the storage facility and then can’t remember where it is. No duplicate keys?

    PS. Off topic but not too far off. When Employee 4 tells De Oliveira that he would need to talk to his supervisor about deleting “the server”, why didn’t De Oliveira follow up with the supervisor or tell Employee 4 to talk to the supervisor?

      • RitaRita says:

        The trajectory of this story is beginning to follow the trajectory of the January 6/coup attempt – what starts out as a seemingly simple story of Trump being emotionally incapacitated (“I couldn’t have lost to Biden”, “Those documents are mine.”) turns into something more convoluted and concerning. In the documents case, the simplest path for him to follow would have been to ask the courts to determine ownership and to have the documents under the control of a special master. Instead, we get all of this almost Keystone Kops activity designed to thwart the return of documents.

      • PeteT0323 says:

        May we hop you provide more color to Employee-4’s statement that he didn’t have the “rights” to delete the server (a legal inference) when – per a Xitter pos of yours “rights” probably meant computer privileges.

        And I spend part of an evening listening to Lawerence O’Donnel promote Employee-4 as a “hero” for refusing the delete the server.

        Anyone have a pool that needs to be drained?

        • Rethfernhim says:

          In IT parlance, “rights” refer to one’s authorizations: when logged into the system, did he have the ability (the “right”) to read, update, delete, or create information stored in specific repositories. It was in this sense that I understood that conversation. Even if the IT person logged into the server, he may not be authorized to delete those files. For security tapes, I imagine very few logins with that right.

          • Ginevra diBenci says:

            Thank you for that, Rethfernhim! I’ve been wondering since I first read the indictment why he used “rights” plural. A lot of TV people have changed it to “right,” singular, as if it were a moral choice. You just made an important clarification.

            • Bugboy321 says:

              It’s my opinion that turning “rights” into “right” is intentional, for the reason you cite: it turns it into a moral choice rather than a technical obstacle.

              I’ve seen far too many Ivy-League educated schmoes misusing the english language in this manner, in order to subtly change the meaning, to think otherwise.

  4. Tim Tuttle says:

    Over 150 private club gatherings at MAL since the TS docs went down to Florida…those gatherings included a lot of foreign invitees.

    Which may be on a tape somewhere?

  5. Rayne says:

    Guess when I did a spit take while reading this post?

    Paragraph 3, right at “John Solomon.”

    I can’t decide whether to laugh my ass off or shake my head.

  6. David Brooks says:

    I know this comment really belongs in one of yesterday’s threads, but I have to say I’m now sharing bmaz’s agita at the sequential charges. The thought of resulting likely delays is overcoming the pleasure of reading indictments as though they were guilty verdicts (unworthy, I know, but not uncommon. Guilty pleasure?).

    Can we expect a request for continuance in the next few days in the MAL case? How much would a reasonable judge reasonably grant? Admittedly there isn’t much material that hasn’t already been in discovery: the MAL employee interactions and the Plan for Iran, I think. But If the trial(s) are underway after Labor Day, they would certainly take up media oxygen that could be spent on discussing policy and politics. Yeah, I know, but serious analysis does happen. Sometimes.

    And although I’ve been gently dinged for over-dramatizing, let me ask what if we end up with a Republican President, and one or other trial is still underway. Would the Acting Attorney General have the authority on the afternoon of 1/20/2025 to order a motion to dismiss the case(s), in order to “heal the nation”? How independent of the DOJ is the SC’s team by then? Maybe Georgia, and possibly Michigan, then really do become the backstop.

    • emptywheel says:

      Because Cannon built a month into the front end of discovery for a classified discovery dispute that normally gets handled in a week, DOJ likely decided it had given them time to add De Oliveira.

      I’m writing a post trying to explain how this is and was always obviously an investigative indictment. That’s not unusual, especially with a fairly complex conspiracy, which this is (and the most serious charges have not yet been charged).

      So Jack Smith’s balance is how to conduct the investigation to answer some incredibly important questions while still trying to get this done in time for the election.

      If Cannon gives many more signs she’ll delay, then Smith has the ability to push a different trial through before November.

      Finally, if you’re going to add De Oliveira to the conspiracy, you’ve got to do it in SDFL. Along with the IT guy (who I think may have started to cooperate after getting a target letter), he’s entirely located in SDFL.

      Others who may be charged were in DC and NJ.

      • Zirczirc says:

        “and the most serious charges have not yet been charged” — You’re referring to the Mar-a-Lago documents case here right? Not Jan 6? If that’s so, I’m trying to think what more serious charges could be out there unless you have reason to suspect those documents weren’t mere trophies, but for sale. Sure, we’ve all had those thoughts, but no evidence.

    • Rayne says:

      LOL Now you’ve pointed to one of the disinformation angles — this is like the mythological “single server.”

    • RitaRita says:

      The property manager can’t remember where he put the duplicate key either. It’s a good thing he wasn’t in charge of securing the front gate to Mar a Lago.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        The kind of padlock one would use for a locker at a gym. Not often used to secure rooms that contain classified USG records.

    • wasD4v1d says:

      Have you seen ‘the lock picking lawyer’ on youtube? he can get pretty much any lock open in a minute or two….and sells a kit so John Barron can do it too.

      • RJames0723 says:

        I worked in the IT department for a well known door hardware manufacturer. We had a resident lock picker who was handed any new configurations to see how long it would take her to open it, she always opened them. It was very entertaining to watch her work.

        • EuroTark says:

          Physical security systems are all about detecting a threat and responding to it. Given enough time a determined intruder will be able circumvent your measures, which is why they are merely there to delay the intruder until they can be detected and responded to. When buying secure locks, their security rating is given in the amount of minutes they are expected to delay a proficient intruder. A skilled lockpicker can open a regular lock faster than you do with your keys.

      • Marc in Denver says:

        Back when I worked for TSA, I know that many of the baggage screeners (I worked checkpoint/passenger only) were skilled lock pickers, to open non TSA compliant locks without having to cut them.

        • Ginevra diBenci says:

          And then there’s the criminal lockpickers, who do this as full-time professionals. Their skills are legendary.

          Lucky that no way Donald Trump would let criminals around Mar-a-Lago.

  7. SaltinWound says:

    Not having the key and not knowing who has the key sounds like a lie from someone who is accused of telling other lies. It’s the sort of thing someone might say to stall, knowing it’s what the boss would want. He could have had the key in his pocket for all we know.

    • P J Evans says:

      I’d expect part of the manager’s job is having a keyring with All the Master Keys and the storage room keys and so on.

      • Codewalker says:

        Certainly. There are special key cabinets specifically designed to hold all the keys for a facility. Brings up a story. Long ago I worked at a company that had IBM disk drives, this back when the drives had removable platters. A disk pack held 200MB and the drive was $50,000. Dust and dirt was a problem so when you opened the unit, a fan turned on to blow air out to thwart particle entry. The extraction unit was a plastic affair that looked like a cake cover.

        Somebody one day thought: All our data is on such and such a pack. The drive should be locked!

        A work order produced: “Lock the IBM disk drive!”

        Instead of going to IBM and getting whatever lock they could provide, it went to facilities.

        Some guy comes down with a drill, lock, and lock hasp and proceeds to drill into the cabinet in several places. Screw in the hasp and fit the lock.

        The shards of cut metal from the drill got on the disk pack and destroyed the surface.

    • emptywheel says:

      I agree it may be a lie.

      But THAT lie would have caused DOJ no end of trouble as they would have to chase it down.

      I’d have to look back to see whether searching for the key would have been included in the warrant.

    • amgewuser23 says:

      according to the indictment, de oliveira told the FBI that he, “never saw nothing,” so yeah, probably a safe bet he was lying about the key.

      and back in june, we know nauta at least had access to the key as he’s the one that let corcoran in to do the search.

      (hi rayne – i’m back after a long hiatus – i couldn’t remember my previous user name, but the email address should be the same and i’ll use this username going forward if it’s cool w/ y’all).

      [Thanks for updating your username to meet the 8 letter minimum. Your previous username was “AMG” which you would have had to change to meet the new site standard anyhow. /~Rayne]

  8. SEASanders says:

    You certainly establish the point that the media completely gobbled up the idea that Trump had taken almost extraordinary action to safeguard these documents, but does anyone really think a person interested in getting into the storage unit (and willing to spend more than an hour planning it out) is going to be deterred by some padlock from Home Depot? See: Lock Picking Lawyer, known for being able to pick any lock (with tools you can get from his site) in seconds.

  9. gertibird says:

    Given the national, historic and public importance (especially given the defendant is running for president) of this trial it should be made public.

  10. earlofhuntingdon says:

    As you point out, securing records in Trump’s possession is outside the scope of a USSS protection detail. Were it not, they would have insisted Trump provide something more secure than an Acme padlock even Wile E. Coyote could pick. The story is beyond credulous, even for a NYT or WSJ reporter.

    • emptywheel says:

      `All it claims is that’s what CDO said, not that it’s true.

      But it likely IS one of several reasons why so many USSS agents were interview and ALSO why the indictment makes it clear that USSS said they were not aware of the docs (not sure I 100% believe that either).

      In other words, DOJ had to go hunt down to whom he really gave the keys.

      Hopefully they were sufficiently on top of this that they asked Kash when they interviewed him.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        I see the FBI did finally cut the lock off, rather than display lock picking skills or have a locksmith on call.

        Imagine asking MAL’s foreign members and guests whether any of them knew how to pick a lock. The response might have been like the one Eddie Murphy’s character receives, when he asks the Heritage Club members: “Is there a lawyer in the house?” Half of them slink away.

      • Jane Ward says:

        Forgive me if I missed this detail along the way. Saw the pix of the door(s) open near the pool. Is this the same entry to the storage area on which the “new lock” was placed? Or, is there another door to the storage room which permits access from the interior of the building? Would love to see a floor plan of the ground level if anyone has a copy. And do we know the location of the “server” room that was “accidentally” flooded? Have I conflated 2 different rooms at MAL?

  11. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Didn’t Don tape the key inside his leather binder? Asking for a friend, who’s hoping EW will discontinue her bad habit of not filling in all the blanks.

    Has the FBI no lock pickers or bolt cutters? Asking for a friend just off to the hardware store.

  12. Spank Flaps says:

    You lock the door and throw away the key
    There’s someone in my head but it’s not me.
    And if the pool bursts, water in your cellar
    No need to involve the IT fella.

  13. Matt___B says:

    Threw away the key? Too bad it wasn’t a combo lock. If it were, the combo probably would have been 13-1-7-1.

  14. IainUlysses says:

    The Devlin article is also claiming that Oliveira lied during a proffer interview. Is that something that was confirmed elsewhere? That it was a proffer, I mean.

    • RitaRita says:

      The headline to that article refers to De Oliveira as a “failed witness”.

      Not only did the dog eat his key but he failed the exam.

    • emptywheel says:

      Given the description of a subpoena in April, it may not be: it might instead be a pre-grand jury interview given under protection of a proffer, after which they scrapped the GJ appearance.

      In any case I’m pretty certain that the word “proffer” doesn’t mean what it normally does in these Jack Smith investigations.

  15. Sue Romano says:

    I get that Trump and his ilk are really bad at repeating the same flooding the zone and server room; what’s kind of sad is the sheer number of journalists and media orgs that DOJ is destroying said credibility, deservedly so.

  16. Peterr says:

    From the last blockquote:

    “Frustrated, the agents simply cut the lock on the gold-colored door. [snip]”

    I see what you did there. Well played, Marcy.

  17. David F. Snyder says:

    I wonder if the defense can be made that De Oliveira shouldn’t have kept the keys, or even had them, as he never had such clearance. Well, I still have to read the follow up on Nauta.

  18. N.E. Brigand says:

    I’ve been enjoying Marcy’s tweets in the past hour regarding how a story about Nauta and de Oliveira in the New York Times today “wilfully resuscitates the Coffee Boy PR campaign” by making their actions seem less important than they were. She notes, for example, that the article ignores the de Oliveira having given away the key to the storage room. I just happened to be rereading parts of the Mueller report earlier today, and I had forgotten how the original coffee boy, George Papadopoulos, had told investigators, not very credibly, that he couldn’t read his own handwriting from a journal he wrote. (Mueller’s report transcribes that page, because it was fairly easy to read.).

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