Ex-Trump aide appears at Miami court to testify before federal grand jury

MIAMI – A former top aide to Donald Trump appeared Wednesday in federal court in Miami for testimony to a grand jury investigating potential classified-document mishandling and obstruction at the ex-president’s Palm Beach property, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Taylor Budowich, who had served as a spokesman for Trump after his presidency and now runs a pro-Trump super PAC, confirmed his appearance on Twitter, writing: “Today, in what can only be described as a bogus and deeply troubling effort to use the power of government to ‘get’ Trump, I fulfilled a legal obligation to testify in front a federal grand jury and I answered every question honestly.”

The Florida grand jury is separate from a panel that has been meeting in Washington as a part of a Justice Department special counsel investigation into Trump over the retention of hundreds of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago and potential obstruction of the government’s efforts to reclaim the records.

The person who initially confirmed Budowich’s appearance spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss secretive grand jury proceedings.

The existence of a separate grand jury in Florida, beyond an existing one in Washington, adds a wrinkle to an investigation that has been largely shrouded in mystery and that has been thought to be in its end stages.

It is not clear why prosecutors are using an additional grand jury beyond the one in Washington or what testimony Budowich was expected to offer, though the existence of the Florida panel could be an indication that prosecutors are considering bringing charges there.

A variety of witnesses, including lawyers for Trump, close aides to the former president and officials with the Trump Organization, have appeared over the past year before the grand jury in Washington. That Mar-a-Lago investigation, being led by special counsel Jack Smith’s team of prosecutors, is thought to be in its final stages, with a charging decision expected soon.

Trump’s lawyers met at the Justice Department on Monday with officials including Smith, part of an effort by the legal team to raise concerns about what they say is prosecutorial misconduct and to try to argue against a potential indictment.

The investigation has focused not only on the possession of classified documents, including at the top-secret level, but also on the refusal of Trump to return the records when asked, and on possible obstruction. The FBI last year issued a subpoena for classified records at the property, and after coming to suspect that Trump and his representatives had not returned all the documents, returned with a search warrant and recovered an additional 100 with classification markings.

Investigators have questioned a Trump associate who was seen on a surveillance camera moving boxes of documents at Mar-a-Lago. As part of an obstruction probe centered in part on surveillance footage, they more recently have expressed interest in a worker’s draining of a pool at the resort last October, an act that caused a flood at the property, according to another person who spoke on condition of anonymity. That area of interest was first reported by CNN.

A spokesman for Smith declined to comment Tuesday night on the existence of another grand jury.

David Weinstein, an attorney and frequent legal analyst for Local 10 News, said while this move may be unusual, it is not unprecedented. He said it’s possible these two grand juries may be working in conjunction with one another.

“The mandate that’s been given to the special prosecutor and the order signed by the Attorney General allows him to investigate this case in the District of Columbia, any other districts in the country and also to refer investigations out to the U.S. Attorney’s Offices in other districts,” Weinstein said.

Weinstein said “it may simply be convenient for witnesses who are located in South Florida, potentially government employees who it will be easier to just bring them into a grand jury down here.”

“It could also have something to do with the jurisdiction or the venue where the charges have arisen from,” he said.


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About the Authors:

Trent Kelly is an award-winning multimedia journalist who joined the Local 10 News team in June 2018. Trent is no stranger to Florida. Born in Tampa, he attended the University of Florida in Gainesville, where he graduated with honors from the UF College of Journalism and Communications.