Ex-Mar-a-Lago employee says he unwittingly helped load Trump classified papers onto plane

Brian Butler, a former Mar-a-Lago employee who has publicly identified himself as a witness in the classified documents case against Donald Trump, recounted how he unknowingly helped load boxes of those documents onto the former president’s plane on CNN’s The Source with Kaitlin Collins

Mr Butler, a valet and manager at Mar-a-Lago, said that in June 2022 he and Walt Nauta, another former employee who is also a co-defendant in the case, loaded approximately 10 to 15 white banker’s boxes from a car to Mr Trump’s plane.

“I mean, we were just taking them out of the Escalade, piling them up. I remember they were all stacked on top of each other. And then we’re lifting them up to the pilot,” Mr Butler said.

Mr Butler said he had “no clue” the boxes contained potential national security secrets at the time. He recalled that he often helped load the Trump family’s luggage or the former president’s things from cars to the plane.

It wasn’t until later that Mr Butler realised those boxes, the same ones that appeared in the government’s indictment, contained classified information.

Mr Butler, who revealed himself to be “Trump Employee 5” in the government’s case against the former president, said he is coming forward with his story and identity now to get ahead of speculation before the trial begins.

“I mean, I think the American people have the right to know the facts, that this is not a witch hunt,” Mr Butler said.

Judge Aileen Cannon, who is overseeing the trial, denied federal prosecutors’ request to seal the witness list meaning Mr Butler’s identity would eventually be revealed.

Mr Butler says he was a close friend of co-defendant and former Mar-a-Lago property manager, Carlos De Oliveira. The two spoke every day and often spent time together. He described Mr De Oliveira as “very loyal” to Mr Trump.

That loyalty manifested in Mr De Oliveira, allegedly, willingly moving boxes containing classified documents for the former president and then trying to conceal his movement.

Mr Butler said in the days after he loaded Mr Trump’s plane with the boxes, Mr De Oliveira told him that Mr Nauta was secretly returning to Mar-a-Lago to look at security footage. In a superseding indictment, federal prosecutors alleged that Mr De Oliveira and Mr Nauta conspired to obstruct justice by concealing security footage from investigators.

It wasn’t long after that Mr De Oliveira and Mr Nauta were being offered legal counsel by the former president. Eventually, Mr Trump’s lawyer reached out to Mr Butler and offered to represent him too. However, Mr Butler declined the offer, obtained his own attorney and began cooperating with federal investigators.

“I’m not tryin’ to hurt [Mr De Oliveira] by giving testimony or anything. I mean – I mean, this is the thing I see. This guy – the former president – has divided the nation like I’ve never seen before. And he’s now divided, like, my best friend since I was 19 years old almost,” Mr Butler said.

Mr Butler said he believes the former president needs to take responsibility for his actions and should not be a candidate for president.

“I, personally, would just say, I just don’t believe that [Mr Trump] should be a presidential candidate at this time. I think it’s time to move on.”

He added: “I think we can do better.”