Exclusive: What the woodworker saw: Trump documents trial may put resort workers on witness stand, sources say

A plumber, a maid, a chauffeur and a woodworker are among Mar-a-Lago staffers and contract workers who federal prosecutors may call to testify against former President Donald Trump and his two co-defendants at their upcoming criminal trial in Florida, according to multiple people familiar with the investigation.

CNN has assembled a comprehensive picture of how prosecutors are structuring their case against Trump over his mishandling of classified documents found at Mar-a-Lago.

While some of the witnesses who may be called to testify hail from Trump’s inner circle, including his career in business, as a political candidate and from his time in the White House, other potential witnesses are the types of workers rarely noticed by Mar-a-Lago’s wealthy guests, according to the sources.

Other likely witnesses also include Trump Secret Service agents, former intelligence officials, as well as people who were in the room with Trump when he was captured on multiple audio recordings referencing a military document about potential plans to bomb Iran, according to the sources.

But the low-level workers who were the eyes and ears of Mar-a-Lago, if called to testify, could offer the public a new level of insight into the exclusive club and Trump’s approach to sensitive national security information since he left office. Some of them are still employed at Mar-a-Lago.

After this story published Trump responded on social media, acknowledging that various people saw papers and boxes at Mar-a-Lago.

“Of course they did! They may have been the boxes etc. that were openly and plainly brought from the White House, as is my right under the Presidential Records Act.”

The Presidential Records Act clearly states that White House records related to government business are public property that must be transferred to the National Archives when the president and vice president leave office.

Currently, the trial is set to begin in Florida in May, well before the 2024 presidential election. But the federal judge presiding over the case, Aileen Cannon, is considering moving the trial until after the election, potentially burying details about Trump’s behavior until after voters go to the polls.

In all, prosecutors could use these witnesses to explain to a jury the free-wheeling environment presided over by Trump after he left the White House. The potential witnesses have already spoken — some multiple times — to federal investigators in detail about the level of security at the Mar-a-Lago resort, including how boxes of documents were kept there and whether they were visible or could have been accessed by visitors to the property.

A spokesman for the special counsel’s office declined to comment for this story. A spokesperson for Trump did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment.

Eye-witness accounts

Some of the witnesses told investigators what they saw at Mar-a-Lago caught their attention and seemed unusual, out-of-place or potentially suspicious.

A woodworker from south Florida, for instance, installed crown molding in Trump’s bedroom in February 2022 and noticed papers, according to three sources who spoke with CNN about what he told investigators. While the stack of papers he saw may have been classified, it wasn’t entirely clear to the woodworker what he had noticed strewn about the property.

“He thinks he saw things, doesn’t know what they were – he eventually told investigators he thought what he saw may be movie prop,” according to a source familiar with investigation.

This photo from the US Department of Justice shows classified intelligence material found during search of Mar-a-Lago. On the left is a filing chest made by Sligh Furniture. On the right is the cover of the March 4, 2019 Time magazine. - US Department of Justice
This photo from the US Department of Justice shows classified intelligence material found during search of Mar-a-Lago. On the left is a filing chest made by Sligh Furniture. On the right is the cover of the March 4, 2019 Time magazine. - US Department of Justice

A maid who cleaned Trump’s suite, a plumber who has worked at the property a few days a week for years, and several other maintenance workers are also among the potential witnesses, the sources said. Some of the workers may not ultimately be called as witnesses by prosecutors trying the case, and may not have even noticed boxes or papers around the property, according to sources familiar with the investigation.

Still, prosecutors working for special counsel Jack Smith made clear in their June indictment of Trump that the lax security once visitors were inside the Mar-a-Lago complex is an issue they intend to highlight to a jury.

“Mar-a-Lago was an active social club, which, between January 2021 and August 2022, hosted events for tens of thousands of members and guests,” including movie premieres, weddings and fundraisers, the indictment says.

A chauffeur was asked by investigators about powerful business-people, including foreigners, who had visited the club as VIP guests, according to one source. For instance, the chauffeur described ferrying around Australian billionaire Anthony Pratt, who could also be called as a witness.

Pratt visited Trump at Mar-a-Lago after Trump left office, and the former president shared with Pratt sensitive information regarding US nuclear submarines, two sources told CNN. That detail was previously reported by ABC News. That incident isn’t among the instances of mishandling national security information with which Trump is charged.

CNN has reached out to Pratt’s representative.

A busy club

In their June indictment, prosecutors noted that Mar-a-Lago has 25 guest rooms, two ballrooms, a spa, a gift store, offices and a pool and exercise facilities. More than 150 workers – from temporary employees to full-time staff – milled about.

That setting is likely to come to life through witness testimony at the trial.

Prosecutors say the club wasn’t a place where classified documents were legally able to be stored, possessed, reviewed, displayed or even discussed after January 2021, making the presence of people without security clearances a risk to national security.

Trump is charged with mishandling 32 national security records – most of which are marked as classified – that he kept after the presidency, largely in boxes at Mar-a-Lago. He is also accused of working with his two codefendants – Walt Nauta, his body man, and Carlos De Oliveira, a valet turned-property manager at the club – to attempt to hide some of the boxes from the federal government and delete security footage of the boxes being moved.

In recent court proceedings, the prosecutors have identified publicly a few possible witnesses, including a receptionist at the club, the head of maintenance, and a personal aide to Trump.

Mar-a-Lago social network

Some of the people identified to CNN as possible witnesses are long-time Trump property employees who live in South Florida and had heard through word-of-mouth about Trump workers’ focus on attempting to delete the security footage.

In this aerial view, former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate is seen on September 14, 2022 in Palm Beach, Florida. - Joe Raedle/Getty Images/FILE
In this aerial view, former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate is seen on September 14, 2022 in Palm Beach, Florida. - Joe Raedle/Getty Images/FILE

Many of the former and current employees of the club still remain in regular contact, and relayed to one another news of the FBI search of the resort when it happened in August 2022. Before that, several of them had been approached by federal investigators for initial interviews. Some of them sat for additional interviews with prosecutors and appeared before a grand jury.

Jim Trusty, an attorney who stopped representing the former president in the documents case after Trump was indicted, told CNN’s Kaitlan Collins on “The Source” Thursday that a lot of “salt of the earth, good people, hard-working people down in the Mar-a-Lago scene,” were “aggressively” intimidated by the Justice Department and the FBI.

“It’s the kind of thing where, Kaitlan, you could drive by Mar-a-Lago, go to the beach and get a subpoena,” Trusty said.

The federal investigators diving deep into the Mar-a-Lago payroll angered the former president, who winters at the Florida property and regularly makes photo opportunities with guests at the club. When the maid who cleans his bedroom suite was asked to speak with investigators, for instance, Trump’s response was “ballistic,” one source told CNN.

One key witness, Yuscil Taveras, only recently resigned from working at the club as the director of IT as opening day for South Florida’s winter season approached, according to two sources who spoke to CNN. Taveras is identified in the indictment as “Trump Employee 4” and was publicly revealed to have received a favorable deal from prosecutors in exchange for his cooperation.

Yet Trump hadn’t known he had continued to be employed at the club following his split from a Trump-provided lawyer this summer, and the former president was unhappy to hear Taveras had still been working there, the sources said.

An attorney for Taveras declined to comment.

This story has been updated with Trump’s response on Truth Social to CNN’s reporting.

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