The superseding indictment in Trump’s classified documents case adds a new variable to the equation: a Mar-a-Lago maintenance worker who allegedly helped to obstruct justice.
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When Donald Trump went to bed last night, he probably wondered whether he will be able to add Mar-a-Lago maintenance worker Carlos De Oliveira to the long list of people willing to take the fall for him.
If not, the president will be in much greater legal peril than he already is.
It could go either way.
Trump has frequently (and aptly) been compared to a mob boss, which is probably why the trait he values above all is loyalty. One of the biggest reasons why the former president has not been held to account more often and more comprehensively for his various illegal activities is that he has always been able to find people who would not only do his bidding but, if things went south, also would cover up and lie for him — even though they themselves may go to jail, be disbarred, get fine, or face other forms of punishment as a result.
Together with Trump, we will find out in the coming weeks and months whether De Oliveira is such a man.
The possibility of the maintenance worker flipping will probably keep the former president up at night more than anything else that can be found in the superseding indictment that special counsel Jack Smith filed Thursday evening in the case of Trump’s hoarding of classified documents and obstructing justice.
Yet it is this other information that most analysts focused on. Some highlighted the additional count of retaining classified information that the former president is now facing. Others noted that new evidence showing that Trump and his underlings obstructed justice is now much stronger.
In the end, neither of these things will matter all that much. After all, the case was incredibly strong to begin with, and the 32nd count of “Willful Retention of National Defense Information” is unlikely to make a difference… even though it apparently means that Smith and his team got their hands on a “lost” document with a plan of attack on Iran that, according to a taped conversation, Trump showed to people who did not have the proper security clearance.
No, the real news is the indictment of De Oliveira as a co-conspirator, which means there is now another person who has to keep quiet at his own peril to protect his boss.
Smith is charging the maintenance worker with lying to the FBI, destroying evidence, and participating in the cover-up of the former president’s attempts to hide the documents from the government.
The indictment indicates that De Oliveira, who, according to The Washington Post, has worked for Trump for nearly 20 years, was chosen for his role in the alleged cover-up precisely because of his loyalty to the former president.
That loyalty will almost certainly be tested because Smith will probably try to get De Oliveira to cut a deal with prosecutors to save himself while incriminating Trump and his aide Walt Nauta.
It certainly seems that, in light of the strength of the case and the wealth of evidence Smith has presented, it would be in De Oliveira’s interest to do so.
But, when you are dealing with organized crime, you never know.