"Very suspicious": Experts skeptical after Trump employee drains pool into Mar-a-Lago server room

“Next up: my dog ate the docs?” questioned a former Mueller prosecutor

By Igor Derysh

Managing Editor

Published June 6, 2023 9:03AM (EDT)

Former President Donald Trump speaks during an event at his Mar-a-Lago home on November 15, 2022 in Palm Beach, Florida.  (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Former President Donald Trump speaks during an event at his Mar-a-Lago home on November 15, 2022 in Palm Beach, Florida. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Prosecutors investigating former President Donald Trump have raised questions about an incident in October when a Mar-a-Lago employee drained the resort's pool and flooded a room containing computer servers with surveillance video logs, according to CNN.

It's unclear if the room was flooded intentionally or by mistake, according to the report, but prosecutors have found the series of events "suspicious" and asked at least one witness about it.

The incident came about two months after the FBI seized hundreds of classified documents from Trump's residence as prosecutors obtained surveillance footage to review how the documents were stored and moved after the former president received a subpoena in May 2022.

Prosecutors have heard testimony that the IT equipment in the room was not damaged by the flood, according to CNN, but investigators are looking at whether Trump or a small group of people who work for him tried to obstruct the Justice Department's probe.

Investigators have questioned witnesses about whether Trump directed others to obstruct the investigation and in recent weeks questioned Trump employees whether it is possible there are gaps in the surveillance footage that was turned over and whether it could have been tampered with.

Prosecutors have focused their obstruction inquiries on Trump body man Walt Nauta and a maintenance worker who helped Nauta move boxes of classified documents before federal agents searched the property last year, according to the report. Sources told the outlet that the maintenance worker is the same person who drained the pool that led to the flooding.

Investigators last month questioned Trump Organization security officials Matthew Calamari Sr. and Matthew Calamari Jr. about the maintenance worker's conversations and a text message from Nauta to Calamari Sr. asking to talk.

The maintenance worker spoke with investigators as well, and had his phone seized, sources told CNN.

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Former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti said it is no wonder prosecutors are suspicious.

"Prosecutors don't believe in coincidences.  It's not surprising that they are very suspicious about the flooding of a room where Mar-a-Lago surveillance video logs were kept," he tweeted. "A jury would likely be skeptical of this evidence as well."

The D.C. watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington tweeted that the flood was certainly "convenient" for the former president.

"Next up: my dog ate the docs?" quipped former federal prosecutor Andrew Weissmann, who served on special counsel Bob Mueller's team.

The report came on the same day that Trump's attorneys met with special counsel Jack Smith to make their case for the department to not charge the former president in connection to the documents, according to The Washington Post.

"This meeting indicates to me is that we are at the end of the Mar-a-Lago piece of the Jack Smith investigation. This is the kind of thing defense attorneys would try and do as a last ditch effort," former acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal told MSNBC.

Weissmann in an appearance on the network predicted that an indictment would come soon.

"The one thing I am pretty confident of is that we are going to see charges... this week," he said.

Smith's investigators have been looking at potential obstruction as well as possible violations of the Espionage Act.

"Of all the things that this man has done, eight decades of lying and cheating and stealing, this case, this documents case is probably the easiest, shortest, simplest and yet carries the most severe penalties, likely penalties, of any of the cases, any of the legal issues that he's ever faced," conservative attorney George Conway, a frequent Trump critic, told MSNBC.

"But for this man who is basically a nihilistic moron, for him to go to jail potentially for a long time, these Espionage Act charges bring very heavy sentences to potentially go to jail for something so pointless and silly and useless as keeping these documents is actually kind of fitting."

By Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is Salon's managing editor. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

MORE FROM Igor Derysh

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Aggregate Donald Trump Jack Smith Mar-a-lago Politics Walt Nauta