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Mar-a-Lago IT employee changed his grand jury testimony after receiving target letter in special counsel probe, court documents say

Washington — Weeks after receiving a target letter from special counsel Jack Smith indicating he was being investigated for potentially lying to a grand jury in the Mar-a-Lago documents probe, an IT employee at Donald Trump's resort switched his lawyer and altered his testimony, ultimately implicating the former president and two of his aides. He alleged they pressured him to delete the resort's security camera footage, court documents filed Tuesday allege.

Court documents say Yuscil Taveras — the IT worker who is identified only as "Trump Employee 4" in court documents — met with federal prosecutors in March 2023 to answer questions related to security camera footage at Trump's Florida residence that was of interest to investigators. 

"He repeatedly denied or claimed not to recall any contacts or conversations about the security footage at Mar-a-Lago," the special counsel's team alleged in Tuesday's court filing. Months later, after Trump and close aide Walt Nauta were indicted by Smith for the illegal retention of classified information and obstructing the investigation, Taveras allegedly changed his story and in July, he "retracted his prior false testimony and provided information that implicated Nauta, [Carlos] De Oliveira, and Trump in efforts to delete security camera footage," the documents say. 

Charging documents say the footage was subpoenaed as investigators looked into the alleged movement of boxes containing classified material inside the Florida resort. 

On July 27, Trump, Nauta, and Mar-a-Lago maintenance worker Carlos de Oliveira were charged in a superseding indictment with crimes that amounted in part to alleged attempts to pressure "Trump Employee 4" to delete the footage in question. Charging documents do not say the video was deleted and suggested Employee 4 did not submit to the alleged pressure. Trump, Nauta, and de Oliveira all pleaded not guilty. The former president has denied any wrongdoing in the case and bashed the prosecution as politically motivated. 

Prosecutors argued Tuesday that Taveras' amended testimony came after a change in legal representation, from Stanley Woodward — an attorney who also represents Nauta and other witnesses in the special counsel probe and whom public records reveal is at least partly funded by Trump's Save America PAC —  to a public defender in Washington, D.C. 

Smith now says Taveras will likely be a witness at a trial against the defendants, including Nauta, and has asked Florida Judge Aileen Cannon to inquire as to potential conflicts between Woodward's past representation of Taveras and current work with Nauta. 

Woodward declined to comment on the most recent court documents, but said last week in a filing of his own that there was no conflict and he did not oppose such an inquiry as long it was done in a sealed hearing. 

He further asked the Florida court to bar Taveras from being called as a government witness, alleging that his amended testimony had been acquired in a grand jury proceeding in Washington, D.C., while the case was already being litigated in Florida. 

"The exercise of this Court's supervisory power is warranted to exclude Trump Employee 4's testimony as a remedy for the improper use of out-of-district proceedings or, at the least, to allow discovery with regard to this matter. Such relief would comport with measures taken in similar instances of perceived or potential grand jury abuse," Woodward wrote last week. 

As special counsel, Smith has broad jurisdiction over where and how to conduct an investigation. His team argued Tuesday that the out-of-district grand jury where Taveras testified was valid because the crime of perjury for which he was being investigated also occurred in Washington, D.C. 

According to the filing, the grand jury in Washington, D.C., that investigated the classified documents case expired just last week, and in what appeared to be one of its final acts —  in late June and early July —  issued subpoenas for more Mar-a-Lago security camera footage allegedly related to Taveras' false statements and the accused pressure campaign. 

Taveras' change in legal counsel came on July 5, after prosecutors raised the potential conflict in Woodward's representation of both him and Nauta to a presiding judge. At the time, according to court documents, Woodward told the court in sealed proceedings he had no knowledge of any false testimony and said if Taveras "wishes to become a cooperating Government witness, he has already been advised that he may do so at any time."

The IT worker's new public defender, appointed around the time of that hearing, declined to comment. 

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