By Kaanita Iyer, CNN
(CNN) — Two employees of Donald Trump moved boxes of papers at Mar-a-Lago a day before the Justice Department visited the former president’s residence to collect classified documents , The Washington Post reported Thursday.
The Post, citing people familiar with the matter, reported that investigators view the timing – just before FBI agents and a prosecutor visited the Florida resort to recover the documents sought as part of a subpoena – as a potential sign of obstruction.
Investigators have evidence, the newspaper reported, that the former president kept classified documents in a visible place in his office and had shown them to others. He also allegedly conducted “a ‘dress rehearsal’ for moving sensitive papers” along with his team before they were subpoenaed in May 2022, according to the report.
CNN previously reported that following the May 2022 subpoena – which the former president wanted to fight – federal prosecutors had a June meeting at Mar-a-Lago during which they were returned documents that had been found in a basement room. At the meeting, Trump lawyers turned over an envelope with 38 classified documents, according to court filings.
The June meeting was later followed by a court-approved search of the property by the FBI in August, in part because investigators developed evidence that classified documents potentially remained at the residence, a source previously told CNN.
A lawyer for one of the Trump employees told the Post that his client had been trying to help Trump aide Walt Nauta and didn’t know what the boxes held. “He was seen on Mar-a-Lago security video helping Walt Nauta move boxes into a storage area on June 2, 2022. My client saw Mr. Nauta moving the boxes and volunteered to help him,” attorney John Irving told the Post.
Prosecutors have pressed for answers on why Nauta was seen on Mar-a-Lago surveillance footage moving boxes out of the storage room before and after the May subpoena, which he had said in one interview with investigators it was at Trump’s direction.
The latest revelations come as special counsel Jack Smith, who is investigating Trump’s handling of classified documents and possible obstruction of justice, has recently obtained new evidence that could undercut Trump’s defense in the documents case.
CNN exclusively reported last week that the National Archives planned to hand over 16 records that show Trump and his advisers were aware of the correct declassification process, which could undercut Trump and his allies’ persistent claims that he did not have to follow a specific process to declassify documents.
Trump told CNN during a Republican presidential town hall earlier this month that he had declassified documents simply by removing them from the White House.
“I had every right to under the Presidential Records Act,” Trump told CNN’s Kaitlan Collins, adding: “You have the Presidential Records Act. I was there and I took what I took and it gets declassified.”
Under the act, however, the National Archives becomes the legal custodian of the president’s records when a president leaves office.
CORRECTION: This story has been updated to correctly reflect the number of classified documents Trump lawyers turned over at a June meeting at Mar-a-Lago.
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CNN’s Jamie Gangel, Zachary Cohen, Evan Perez and Paula Reid contributed to this report.