One day before the FBI came to Mar-a-Lago to conduct a search of a storage room containing classified documents, security cameras recorded a Trump aide and Mar-a-Lago workers removing boxes of material from that room. Those security cameras might have had more to say about how many times the boxes were accessed, who had seen their contents, and what else might have been there, but there’s a problem. As CNN reports, there are no more recordings and, according to Trump, the FBI can blame his pool boy.
An employee at Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence drained the resort’s swimming pool last October and ended up flooding a room where computer servers containing surveillance video logs were kept, sources familiar with the matter told CNN.
That Trump would build a server room in a place where “below ground” also means “below sea level” and not protect that room from flooding seems in line with previous Trump construction projects—like Trump Tower, where people have died because the building lacks a sprinkler system. But what makes this particular version of “the dog ate my homework” more suspicious is that Trump has used this excuse before.
The flood at Mar-a-Lago came two months after FBI agents recovered hundreds of classified documents from the storage room, as well as Trump’s private office. Investigators may have looked at the security recordings at that time to see who had visited those locations and which of them might, like the employees recorded on Aug. 7, 2022, have taken either boxes of material or individual documents from the room.
This is a particularly interesting question considering a recording of Donald Trump talking about how he was still holding on to a highly classified document concerning national defense strategy and Iran. Trump made those statements at his golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey, and the document he bragged about keeping was not among those found when the FBI searched Mar-a-Lago on Aug. 8 (though another document related to Iran was reportedly found in Trump’s office).
It seems entirely possible that the document, along with other classified material, might have been in boxes that workers removed from the storage room on Aug. 7. Or they may have been moved on some other date. Documents may also have traveled in or out of Trump’s office, where he may have shown them to visiting guests, including Saudi representatives who sponsored a golf tournament at Trump’s Bedminster course in July.
Whatever may have happened, the Mar-a-Lago security camera system will be of no help in pinpointing document movements, because in October, an employee draining the Mar-a-Lago pool somehow managed to flood the server room and … whoops. No more security recordings.
The peculiarity of this excuse is enough that witnesses have reportedly been called on to testify about the event before the grand jury seated in Washington, D.C., by special counsel Jack Smith. But it seems as if there’s another good reason to be struck by the convenience of having this information lost: It’s not the first time Trump has used this excuse.
On hearing about the pool flood, author David Johnston noted that his book “The Making of Donald Trump” contains another incident, one that took place when Trump was the focus of another investigation. That previous incident took place all the way back in 1986. At the time, Trump was being investigated for failing to pay over $3 million in rent due to New York City from his operations at the Grand Hyatt Hotel.
The rent Trump paid for operating the city-owned property was based in part on his revenues at the site. In 1985, the rent had come to $3.7 million. But in 1986, Trump paid less than $700,000. So the city called for an audit to determine why there was such an abrupt change.
After years of investigation during which Trump and his attorneys were accused by the city of “stonewalling” and “obfuscation,” auditors reported to the city that Trump was missing most of the required documentation. In particular, over half of the monthly ledgers that were legally required to track operations at the hotel were missing.
The reason provided by Trump was that the ledgers “were discarded after they were severely damaged by water when the room in which they were stored was flooded.”
New York auditors didn’t shy away from complaining that Trump’s bookkeeping was erratic and incompetent, and scoffed at the idea that there was only one copy of documents vital to the operation of both the hotel and Trump’s company. Even in the parts of the ledger they could obtain, they found numerous issues. That included sliding some revenue around to make it appear that income had decreased by over $1 million when it had actually gone up.
Summaries of the hotel finances were discovered in another location some weeks later. Working from these documents, New York was able to show that Trump owed the city more than he had in 1985. However, by then, Trump’s accounting firm declared bankruptcy, which his attorneys used as a reason to prolong proceedings for months. Before it was settled, Trump actually sold his interest in the hotel, and the city had to reach an agreement for some reduced amount from the new operators.
So, in that case, Trump did what he still does in every legal proceeding—resist, delay, obfuscate. And he got away with it, thanks to a handy flood that took out just the right records to slow things down and hide critical information.
This time around, special counsel Smith appears to be moving fairly quickly. Trump’s leaky pool seems unlikely to head off indictments.
But it sure would be nice to know what was in those missing recordings.
We talk about the field of Republicans willing to go up against the MAGA monster that is Trump. It’s a veritable who cares of the Republican Party, but it is also indicative of the rot inside of the conservative world.