CNN correspondent Katelyn Polantz broke a significant story revealing that former President Donald Trump and his associates had engaged in a series of communications with a former Mar-a-Lago staffer-turned-witness before Trump faced charges related to mishandling classified documents. The exclusive report, titled “Former Mar-a-Lago employee-turned-witness repeatedly contacted by Trump and associates before documents charges,” detailed a charm offensive that included offers of legal representation, complimentary tickets to a golf tournament, and reminders that the ex-employee could return to work for Trump.
Polantz shared her findings on CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360, explaining that the former employee, who had witnessed events later cited in the indictment of Trump, Carlos De Oliveira, and Walt Nauta, became a crucial witness in the investigation. The communications occurred in the period following an FBI search in August, and the former employee began receiving unusual attention from Trump, De Oliveira, and Nauta.
The interactions included offers from De Oliveira and Nauta, who were later charged, inviting the former employee to a golf tournament and suggesting a return to his job at Mar-a-Lago. There were also discussions about using attorneys within Trump’s circles, a choice the former employee opted against. Additionally, Nauta, with whom the former employee had a less close relationship, mentioned the possibility of returning to work at Mar-a-Lago and even appeared with him at a gym, an unusual occurrence.
One of the most notable aspects was Trump personally calling the former employee, a departure from the usual practice, and asking why he was leaving. The timing of these communications raised concerns, prompting the special counsel’s office to investigate the pattern of interaction. While the nature of these conversations could be typical, the context surrounding the former employee’s departure and his subsequent role as a key witness in the investigation drew attention from investigators.
COOPER: What have you learned?
KATELYN POLANTZ: Well, Anderson, this is a story about a series of communications. There’s a close-knit circle of people who worked for — at Mar-a-Lago — who still work at Mar-a-Lago under Donald Trump.
And in the crucial period, there was the FBI search last August. And then an employee — a longtime employee, who was quite close to many people at Mar-a-Lago, leaves Mar-a-Lago having been a witness to many of the things that later appeared in the indictment of the Donald Trump, Carlos De Oliveira, and Walt Nauta, who’s two people who worked for him.
This person — this former employee — is becoming a witness. And before Donald Trump and these two other men are charged, there’s just enough things that raised his attention to make it seem a little bit different because the amount of communication he was getting from not just Carlos De Oliveira and Walt Nauta, but Trump himself, was unusual for him. So these are his friends or people that he is working with regularly.
But the things that I have learned through multiple sources, as far — as well as the materials that I’ve gotten, to have been able to have a bit of a insight into, is that this former employee at Mar-a-Lago, he was friends with Carlos De Oliveira who later became charged in this case. And Carlos had said things to him about, hey, you should come to a golf tournament after he leaves working at the club. The — Trump would like to see you. I think Trump would really like to see you.
He also talks to Carlos De Oliveira, and Carlos says something about, perhaps you want to come back to your job. You could come back to your job at Mar-a-Lago if you wanted to. There’s also some discussions between the two about the attorneys. So they want to use attorneys that are within the Trump circles, as Carlos De Oliveira did. This former employee chose to use an attorney outside of the Trump circles.
There’s also an instance where he interacts with Walt Nauta, who later is charged — someone he has a less close relationship to. And Walt Nauta did tell him, you could come back to work at Mar-a-Lago if you wanted, that Walt Nauta was also showing up at a gym with this man, as well as Carlos De Oliveira, which was unusual.
And then finally, Anderson, the — one of the things that was so unusual here is, as this former employee left his job a couple of months after that FBI search before he becomes a crucial witness to investigators, Donald Trump gets his cell phone number, hadn’t called him in quite some time, rarely called an employee like this, and calls him and asks him, why are you leaving, why are you leaving working for me, very possibly, at that time, knowing that this man could be a witness against him in this investigation.
Now, all of this may just be how people are exchanging conversations, how people have conversations, how their friends have conversations, what Trump is doing when people are leaving. But it all is happening at such an interesting time that the special counsel’s office did pick up on this pattern of interaction. They did look into it at one point in time. They were told about several of these instances.