Aide testifies before federal grand jury in Mar-a-Lago documents case
A former top aide to Donald Trump appeared Wednesday in federal court in Miami for testimony to a grand jury investigating potential classified-document mishandling and obstruction at the ex-president’s Palm Beach property, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Taylor Budowich, who had served as a spokesman for Trump after his presidency and now runs a pro-Trump super PAC, confirmed his appearance on Twitter, writing: "Today, in what can only be described as a bogus and deeply troubling effort to use the power of government to 'get' Trump, I fulfilled a legal obligation to testify in front a federal grand jury and I answered every question honestly."
The Florida grand jury is separate from a panel that has been meeting in Washington as a part of a Justice Department special counsel investigation into Trump over the retention of hundreds of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago and potential obstruction of the government's efforts to reclaim the records.
The person who initially confirmed Budowich's appearance spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss secretive grand jury proceedings.
The existence of a separate grand jury in Florida, beyond an existing one in Washington, adds a wrinkle to an investigation that has been largely shrouded in mystery and that has been thought to be in its end stages.
It suggests that prosecutors could bring criminal charges in Florida, where the documents were taken and where multiple acts of alleged obstruction have occurred, instead of in Washington.
“I think the signal is increasingly that the charges against the former president will be in Florida,” said Brandon Van Grack, a former Justice Department prosecutor and a key lawyer on an earlier special counsel team that investigated ties between Russia and the 2016 Trump campaign
Though the bulk of the investigative work has been done in Washington, prosecutors could simply read key testimony to the Florida grand jury or have a summary witness summarize all the key evidence, Van Grack said.
A variety of witnesses, including lawyers for Trump, close aides to the former president and officials with the Trump Organization, have appeared over the past year before the grand jury in Washington. That Mar-a-Lago investigation, being led by special counsel Jack Smith's team of prosecutors, is thought to be in its final stages, with a charging decision expected soon.
Trump's lawyers met at the Justice Department on Monday with officials including Smith, part of an effort by the legal team to raise concerns about what they say is prosecutorial misconduct and to try to argue against a potential indictment.
The investigation has focused not only on the possession of classified documents, including at the top-secret level, but also on the refusal of Trump to return the records when asked, and on possible obstruction. The FBI last year issued a subpoena for classified records at the property, and after coming to suspect that Trump and his representatives had not returned all the documents, returned with a search warrant and recovered an additional 100 with classification markings.
Investigators have questioned a Trump associate who was seen on a surveillance camera moving boxes of documents at Mar-a-Lago. As part of an obstruction probe centered in part on surveillance footage, they more recently have expressed interest in a worker's draining of a pool at the resort last October, an act that caused a flood at the property, according to another person who spoke on condition of anonymity. That area of interest was first reported by CNN.
A spokesman for Smith declined to comment Tuesday night on the existence of another grand jury.
Beyond the Mar-a-Lago investigation, another probe in Washington also conducted by Smith centers on efforts by Trump and his allies to undo the results of the 2020 presidential election.
Among the people who have recently spoken voluntarily to prosecutors in that probe is Alyssa Farah Griffin, who was a press secretary for former Vice President Mike Pence, according to two people familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive law enforcement matters. CNN earlier reported the interview.
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