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The Source with Kaitlan Collins

"Trump Employee 5" Tells CNN He Unknowingly Helped Move Boxes Of Classified Info From Mar-A-Lago To Trump's Plane; Longtime Trump Employee: "Anybody Could" Feasibly Access Room Where Classified Documents Were Kept; Key Trump Witness: Australian Billionaire Repeated Classified Submarine Secrets After Trump Meeting. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired March 11, 2024 - 21:00   ET



RANDI KAYE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: During that time, he's been working with investigators and lawyers, and has discovered what they call the substantial new evidence, which you had actually referenced earlier.

We don't know what that evidence is. But they say that it does support his claims of innocence. So, they're looking at the DNA. They want some items tested again, retested. And then, they also want some new items new -- new items tested for DNA. And they think that there is something there, Anderson that could prove his innocence.

So, we really don't know what to expect, tomorrow. We know for sure that no doubt we'll see more motions filed, more hearings, in this case.


KAYE: Before we know exactly if Scott Peterson will get a new trial.

COOPER: All right, Randi Kaye. Thanks so much.

That's it for us. The news continues. "THE SOURCE WITH KAITLAN COLLINS" starts now. I'll see you, tomorrow.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST: Good evening. I'm Kaitlan Collins.

THE SOURCE is coming to you live, tonight, from South Florida, where I just spoke exclusively, with one of the central witnesses, in one of the biggest cases, criminal cases I should note, in American history, the Trump classified documents case.

Until now, he has been known to the world as Trump Employee 5, as a Mar-a-Lago valet, in Special Counsel, Jack Smith's superseding indictment. He's referenced six times in it. And he has never spoken out publicly, until now.


BRIAN BUTLER, FORMER TRUMP MAR-A-LAGO EMPLOYEE: It always got brought up about Biden, and other people that did the same thing.

And then, there was one time, he said, you know, we're all dirty, we all move boxes.


COLLINS: That is just one of the explosive things that Brian Butler told me, about what one of Trump's co-defendants told him. He worked for Donald Trump, for two decades, since he was just 19-years-old. Now, at age 41, with his identity revealed, comes an incredible story.

You're about to hear Butler's take, on how he says he unwittingly participated in the moving of boxes, which contained some of America's most delicate national secrets. Also, what he says he witnessed, the possible obstruction of a federal investigation.


COLLINS: You are Trump Employee Number 5. You're a central witness in the classified documents investigation. Why are you speaking out publicly, with your story now?

BUTLER: Well, I mean, it's -- it's been almost a year, since FBI agents showed up at the -- at my house, when my wife was at home. And, over the course of the last year, emotionally, it's been a roller- coaster.

Couple weeks ago, Judge Cannon says she's going to release the names of the witnesses. You go from highs and lows in this. And instead of just waiting for it to just come out, I think it's better that I get to, at least say what happened, than it coming out in the news, people calling me like crazy. I'd rather just get it out there. And the hope is, at least I can move on with my life, and get over this.

COLLINS: I mean, your whole life changed, as a result of this. What was it like, last summer, to read through that superseding indictment, and to realize you are Trump Employee Number 5?

BUTLER: I mean, I was out with my family, out of town, on vacation. I got a phone call from my attorney. And he said, hey, they just arrested Carlos. And my heart just dropped. I mean, I'm like, oh my god.

COLLINS: Carlos De Oliveira, who is not only the property manager, at Mar-a-Lago, but was one of your--

BUTLER: My best friend. I mean, we used to talk every day. Every day, I mean, we were always at least in some sort of contact.

COLLINS: And you had just seen him a few days before that?

BUTLER: I think four days. He was at my house. We played golf. We had a great time.

COLLINS: It must have shocked you to?

BUTLER: Oh, it's, yes, it hurts. No contact since then.

COLLINS: And I should be clear, Jack Smith's investigators sought you out. How many times do you think you've -- have you talked to investigators now?

BUTLER: Say, probably between four and five times?

COLLINS: Can we talk about what started all of this, which is the boxes? I mean, Trump was clearly obsessed with these boxes. At one point, in the indictment, someone refers to them as his beautiful mind paper.

What was kind of known, among the employees, about why that he cared about these boxes so much? Were you guys -- did you talk about them?

BUTLER: I never talked about them. I really didn't even know what was going on, until the investigation. I started reading in the news, employees were getting interviewed, the indictment.

So June 3rd, he goes back home. He went back home. We had moved the bunch of stuff, the belongings, everything.

COLLINS: That's when he's going from spending his time in Palm Beach, to spending his time in Bedminster, New Jersey?

BUTLER: That is correct.

So, we are there, to assist with luggage, anything that needs to go to the plane. So, and since I ran the car service, I had employees come, to help with luggage, and then we were going to bring it to the plane, and then back up, and then off to New York, they went.


COLLINS: The other key thing about that is that was the day that his attorneys were meeting the FBI, at Mar-a-Lago.

The day before, one of his attorneys had gone and searched the storage room, not knowing that Walt Nauta, the body-man, who is now a co- defendant, had been moving boxes in and out of that room, the day before.

Did you know about that?

BUTLER: No. I never knew anything about that.

On June 3rd, Walt had came up to me, and asked me if he could use one of our Escalades. Since I ran the car service, I pretty much kept control over the vehicles. I had loaded a bunch of the family luggage, into a minivan, and I was just going to drive it to the plane, load it up, and that's it.

But during the -- us getting luggage, Walt asked, hey, I need a minivan.

Sure, go ahead. And then he left. And I was -- I didn't think anything of it. It was a little odd the way he asked me. I mean, it stood out now, after all this. But him and Carlos were gone at that time. And I didn't know, because typically, he wouldn't go get a vehicle, drive himself, and get luggage, so.

COLLINS: So it was unusual for him to make that ask of you that day?

BUTLER: It seemed odd to me, once I figured how everything went, down the line, June, July and August, from what I learned, it kind of made sense.


BUTLER: Something was up.

COLLINS: You weren't just putting luggage on that plane that day?

BUTLER: So, I just had -- I only remember Trump family personal luggage. And then what happened is Walt left before me. And he never goes directly to the plane. He's either in the motorcade, when he goes there with the boss, which the former President.

And I remember telling him he left the club with -- I didn't know what he had in his vehicle. But he waited for me at a nearby business. And I told him, I would tell him when I was leaving Mar-a-Lago.

So, I left Mar-a-Lago. I texted him, Hey, I'm on my way. He followed me. He pulled out and got behind me. We got to the airport. I ended up loading all the luggage I had. And he had a bunch of boxes.

COLLINS: You noticed that he had boxes?

BUTLER: Oh, yes, they were the boxes that were in the indictment. The white Bankers Boxes? That's what I remember loading.

COLLINS: And did you have any idea, at the time, that there was potentially U.S. national security secrets in those boxes?

BUTLER: No clue. No -- I had no clue. 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 pilots.

COLLINS: How many boxes was it?

BUTLER: They asked me in the interview. And I believe it was like 10 to 15, is what I remember. I know -- I know it was--

COLLINS: They being the investigators?

BUTLER: Correct.

COLLINS: And when you look back on that now, what do you?

BUTLER: Well, I had no clue until probably the end of June. There's a few different things that happen that kind of opened my eyes to something's going on here.

COLLINS: So, you get that unusual request. Did you ever think to yourself, why were there so many boxes at Mar-a-Lago?

BUTLER: For me, I'm just thinking, ah the former President, he has a lot of stuff, he likes to lug around with them. I never would have thought it was anything like what we see now.

COLLINS: Classified documents.

BUTLER: Yes, I mean.

COLLINS: On that day, as you're loading, helping load these boxes, unwittingly, into the plane, and handing them to the pilots?


COLLINS: Trump is back at Mar-a-Lago. And did you know that his attorneys were there that day?

BUTLER: It's funny, because I remember seeing this taller guy, I think, flip-back silver hair. I think it was Evan -- who I now know to be Evan Corcoran. And I saw a bunch of other people, in the living room. I had no clue. I'm just seeing all these people. I have no clue what they're there for.

I was on the cloister outside over by the bar. The former President was walking towards the living room, like he was going to enter the living room. He was with Secret Service.

I remember, he said hi to me, hi, Brian.

Hi, Mr. Trump, or President Trump.

And then, he went in and talked to them. But I had no clue who those people were.

COLLINS: And it was Evan Corcoran, Trump's attorney, and members of the FBI, Jay Bratt?

BUTLER: Which, I come to realize now. At the same time, he's going in there, the boxes are going from somewhere into a vehicle, which are eventually going to the plane, which I load, with Walt.

COLLINS: Do you ever remember seeing those boxes come back to Mar-a- Lago?

BUTLER: I don't. I do not.

COLLINS: And then in June, a little bit later, you get a call, from Carlos, telling you that Walt is coming to Mar-a-Lago?

BUTLER: It was actually we -- we live literally 30 seconds from each other.

COLLINS: You're neighbors? BUTLER: We're neighbors. So, we would always go walk. And just on the walk, I remember him saying hey, by the way, Walt's coming tomorrow.

Oh, cool. That's great. I was like, OK.

Wasn't until the following day, when we're out walking, he's like, hey, by the way, it's a secret. Don't tell anybody Walt's coming.

And well, why?

Well, he needs me to -- he needs me to find something out before he gets here.

Oh, what's that?

He needs me to, you know, how long the camera footage is saved at Mar- a-Lago.

And I'm like, well that's -- that's odd. Why do you need the camera footage? Why do you need to know how long it takes?

And his response was, I think they're looking for somebody that was there.

I said oh, OK. I wonder who out -- I have. So.


COLLINS: So, he tells you that Walt's coming, that it's a secret, that no one's supposed to know, and that they're looking to see how long this surveillance footage goes back?

BUTLER: That's what he needed to find out by the time Walt got there. So, that what seemed really odd to me.

And then, not many days later, when I receive a call, from the corporate head of security, at Trump Organization, saying, why didn't you tell me Carlos moved boxes?

I didn't really know he moved boxes, you know? I never saw him move boxes on June 3rd. I mean, I know now that that's what it looks like, what's going on, him and Walt were moving boxes, and then he drove him to the plane. But I had -- I had no clue.

My response was, what did I move? Did you see me on video moving something?

But I guess, he had gotten a call, from the corporate attorney, at Trump Organization, and said, save this video footage. And that's when he went to look at the footage and said, why didn't you tell me Carlos -- you know, I guess that's Carlos was moving boxes.

COLLINS: And this is really important, this moment about the surveillance footage, because Carlos has now been -- he was indicted, in part, for lying to federal investigators, because he was having a conversation with another one of your co-workers, about deleting that footage.

BUTLER: Correct.

COLLINS: That Trump had told him to have this server deleted.

Did you and Carlos ever have any other conversations about the surveillance footage?

BUTLER: So, sometime in August, after the -- when I -- when I met with the prosecutors, I said, after the raid, and they immediately corrected me and said--

COLLINS: Search.

BUTLER: --lawfully executed search warrants.

So, after the lawfully executed search warrant, I was on a cruise. The day that Mar-a-Lago -- they showed up at Mar-a-Lago, I was going to a cruise and I had gotten a phone call.

But when I got back, like, a couple days from when I got back, I reached -- I reached out to a friend of mine, who worked at another Trump property. And he said, hey, by the way, your boy's in trouble. I hear your boy's in trouble.

I'm like, what do you mean? And he's talking about Carlos. And I'm like, Carlos didn't do anything wrong.

He's like, well, that's not what I hear. I heard he asked Yuscil, to delete video footage.

And I said, he would never do that. I mean, Yuscil's making that up. Something's not right.

So, now I'm like, something isn't jiving here.

COLLINS: And Yuscil Taveras is, he was the IT employee at Mar-a-Lago that in the indictment, it says Carlos had the conversation with, about deleting the server, right?

BUTLER: Correct. But that's the first I had ever heard of that is when a friend tells me that my friend is in trouble, basically.

COLLINS: But when you started to think about the conversation, you and Carlos had, about surveillance footage, and then you have this conversation, are you beginning to get suspicious?

BUTLER: Yes. It's all like a puzzle. And it's little pieces here and there. And now, I'm wondering.

And I asked Carlos. I said, did you say that to him?

No, no, I did not -- I wouldn't. I asked him about the video footage, time for -- timing, and how long until it deletes.

COLLINS: He denied to you that he had tried to-- BUTLER: That's correct.

COLLINS: --get it deleted?

BUTLER: That is correct.

COLLINS: But you got a call, from Walt Nauta, after the search happened.

BUTLER: Yes, correct.

COLLINS: What did he say to you?

BUTLER: So, I was on my way to my birthday weekend, down at the Hard Rock. And I think I texted him like, hey, I'm, you know, we'll talk at like, in an hour. I was with people or something.

So, I called him back, and he's like, hey, someone just wants to make sure Carlos is good. I take that, as Trump's wants to make sure Carlos is.

So, I reply, listen, Carlos is very loyal. He would not do anything, to affect his relationship with the boss.

I've never seen him -- he's never been happier, on the job. I mean, he had a very close relationship with the former President. It was -- everybody saw it at the club. I mean, they would always interact. They would walk around the property. They would, I mean.

So, I told him no, there's -- there's -- Carlos would not do anything to affect his relationship with the boss.

COLLINS: Why do you think you had to assure Trump's body-man?

BUTLER: I really don't know. I'm sure somebody, you know, I think the former President told Walt to reach out to me. I don't know why.

COLLINS: And then, did you later have to assure to anyone else that your friend, Carlos, would be loyal to Trump?

BUTLER: So, the end of that call with Walt, he told me, he's like we're going to get Carlos an attorney.

I was like OK.

So, I get to the Hard Rock, or right around the same timeframe, and Walt says -- they add me to a Signal chat group, with Susie Wiles, and he says something to the effect like, Brian, just can you put in this chat, what you just told me?


So, I type it up. I say, hey, you know, it's a little weird to me. But listen, Carlos is very loyal. He would not do anything, to affect his relationship with the boss. He loves what he does. And you don't have to worry about Carlos, to that effect. COLLINS: And for those who don't know, Susie Wiles is running Trump's 2024 campaign. And Signal is an encrypted app, where your messages disappear.

BUTLER: Correct.

COLLINS: So, Walt Nauta told you that they were going to get Carlos an attorney.

BUTLER: Correct.

COLLINS: What happened after that? Did he get a call from?

BUTLER: So, I'd say, within 30 minutes, I think it was probably a lot sooner.

I'm with Carlos. We're at the Hard Rock by the food court. And his phone rings. And it's the former President. He takes the call. We're standing in the food court. I think we went to sit down. And he -- I can't remember how long the conversation was. But I know, at the end of the conversation, when they hung up, Carlos said, he's going to get me an attorney.

COLLINS: Did he tell you anything else that Trump said to him?

BUTLER: I didn't ask. And I don't remember him saying anything else. But I was just told, not that long, not too long before, we're getting him an attorney by Walt. And then, he gets the call that he's going to get an attorney.

COLLINS: Who's paying for your attorney?

BUTLER: I actually had reached out to counsel, before anybody came to talk to me, just so I was prepared. I knew it was coming. I just had a feeling. But no, I paid for my own attorney.

COLLINS: Why was that important to you?

BUTLER: Something like this, I think it's better to look after yourself, and take care of it yourself. Even the voicemail, by the attorney that called me, he says, I'm representing former President Trump.


JOHN ROWLEY, TRUMP ATTORNEY: Hey, Brian, good morning. My name is John Rowley. I'm one of the lawyers representing President Trump. It's my understanding that you got a grand jury subpoena. Would you please give me a call at your first opportunity?


COLLINS: Did you ever call that attorney back?

BUTLER: No. I sent it to my attorney, and let him handle it.

COLLINS: Were you feeling pressured to stay in Trump's world?

BUTLER: Carlos and I were very close, you know?

It was previously reported. There was a golf tournament. Carlos, oh, let me get you tickets. Let me -- or I'm sure the boss would love to see you.

In my mind, I would not step foot in any of his properties again.

The attorney, I think there was a lot of pressure there, I feel. It got brought up multiple times. He mentioned to me, why didn't -- why didn't you call him back? It's going to cost you a lot of money. I mean, you should see my attorney bills that I get. It's thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars.

I said, I'm OK, I'm good.

COLLINS: So, not only did you feel pressured, to get an attorney, you were also being offered tickets, and FaceTime with the former President?

BUTLER: That's what he said. He said he'd love to see you.


COLLINS: Did Carlos ever imply to you? Given your close friendship, I mean, the fact that you're neighbors. You knew his wife. You guys had had decades of friendship. Did he ever imply to you that he might be in trouble?

BUTLER: He said everything will be fine. That kind of attitude, I never. Maybe a couple times I saw him may be a little nervous. But overall, I think he feels like this is going to go away.

COLLINS: Did the two of you ever talk about moving boxes? Or looking back on that?

BUTLER: Yes, I mean, there was one time towards, one of the last times I was with him, and we're talking about boxes. And well, Biden did the same thing. You can't get -- it always got brought up about Biden, and other people that did the same thing.

And then, there was one time, he said, you know, we're all dirty, we all move boxes.

And I said, well, look, I didn't even know what I was moving, until I was at the plane, and that's when I remember moving boxes.


COLLINS: There's more, a lot more actually, Butler describing, at one point, the lax security that he personally witnessed, at the Mar-a- Lago club, and what he wants American voters, to know about Trump, before November. That's next.


COLLINS: We're back live, from South Florida, tonight, with more of our exclusive interview, with the man identified, in the Trump indictment, as Trump Employee Number Five.

In a moment, you'll hear Brian Butler, describe the lack of security that he says, was protecting some of the nation's most classified military documents. When you do, it's important to remember this though, the version that Donald Trump himself tries to sell.


DONALD TRUMP (R), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: We had these things locked. We were surrounded all the time by many Secret Service agents. We had Secret Service all over Mar-a-Lago. You couldn't take anything out.


COLLINS: What we do know, from court filings, though, is that some 48,000 guests visited Mar-a-Lago, while these documents were kept there. Only a fraction, according to prosecutors, went through security.

Keep those numbers in mind, as Brian Butler describes the reality, inside Mar-a-Lago.


COLLINS: You know the property really well. And one thing that we read about in the indictment that the prosecutors said was that essentially, there were thousands of guests that had come through Mar- a-Lago, in the period that the documents were there.

BUTLER: Correct.

COLLINS: We know they were kept in all kinds of public places.

I mean, how secure would you say Mar-a-Lago is?

BUTLER: Well, I mean, there's been some very public instances of people, sneaking on property. Look, I think it's secure. But there were definitely a lot of gaps, where people could get in very easily.

COLLINS: Did -- who had access to the rooms, where the documents were kept?


BUTLER: I don't know if a master key. But I mean, like I could have went and got a master key, to all the rooms, for check-ins. I oversaw all the check-ins with the valets, all of that. So, I mean, feasibly, at night, anybody could have.

COLLINS: Who made the call, where these boxes were kept?

BUTLER: I have (ph).

COLLINS: In the Pine Hall, in the -- in the ballroom?

BUTLER: Look, Pine Hall was always guarded. You didn't have to worry about any security breaches for Pine Hall.

But definitely, the Lake Room, which is pretty much above close to -- almost above Pine Hall. I mean, anybody could just go around the spiral staircase, turn left, and there it is.

COLLINS: Anybody could access that room?

BUTLER: Well, I'm sure you needed a key. But yes, I mean, there were multiple ways to get to the Lake Room.

COLLINS: How many people had a key, if you had to guess?

BUTLER: I'm assuming they didn't change the -- if they had the same lock? Oh, my Gosh, there're probably over 10 keys, 20 keys? I don't -- I mean, all the managers had master keys.

COLLINS: Do you view Trump as a national security risk?

BUTLER: I personally would just say, I just don't believe that he should be a presidential candidate, at this time. I think it's time to move on.

COLLINS: Does it concern you that, I mean--

BUTLER: I think it should concern.

COLLINS: --people were--

BUTLER: Yes, absolutely. I think we can do better.

COLLINS: You're obviously a central witness in this case. If it goes to trial, are you prepared to testify?

BUTLER: Absolutely. Yes, absolutely.

COLLINS: His attorneys are trying to get it pushed, though, past the election. Do you believe that this trial should happen before the election?

BUTLER: I mean, I think the American people have the right to know the facts, that this is not a witch-hunt. I mean, he can go out on TV, and say this. That's one of the reasons for doing this. And quote, you know, the PRA says this and that. It's all bogus. But people believe him.

COLLINS: You think it's a fair investigation?

BUTLER: Absolutely. I mean, to me, you have the law-and-order President attacking agents, the Special Counsel, on an almost a daily basis, when these people are just taking their sworn oath. They took a sworn oath to basically follow the laws of this country. And now, you have somebody attacking them? Yes, I don't think that's right.

COLLINS: It must feel like you're choosing between loyalty to these -- to your friends, and--

BUTLER: Absolutely.

COLLINS: --and truth.

BUTLER: Absolutely. And there's no person that wants loyalty more than the former President. I mean, he says it all the time.

COLLINS: Given how other people, who have been in Trump's orbit, and left, and told the truth, and how they've been treated, did it ever make you hesitate to--

BUTLER: No. Look, I was always going to tell the truth.

But, after one of the interviews, with the Justice -- the investigators, on this case, I think it got real, when at the end of it -- it was either my second or third, fourth time talking to them, where they said, at the end of it, oh, by the way, all of your grand jury testimony and witness testimony has been turned over to the Trump defense, you know?

At that point, you're like, oh, boy, you know?

COLLINS: Did it make you nervous?

BUTLER: Yes, a little bit. But I don't want to live in fear. I mean, we're only here for a finite time. To me, I refuse to live in fear like that. I mean, yes, cautious. But, I'm going to tell the truth.

COLLINS: And those investigators that actually encouraged you to not talk to Carlos?

BUTLER: They did.

COLLINS: Did they -- what were they worried about, do you think?

BUTLER: I remember, one time, one of the members of the Special Counsel's team said, they worry about, maybe he records you, or maybe he's going to use stuff against you.

It was a tough time. I mean, I remember, you know, we were so close. So, I remember, he sent me a text, one day, after I had kind of avoided him. And it's like, you never called me back. What did I do to you? Or something like that. And it really, it really hurt.

I mean, I literally said, are you home? And I went to his house. And I said, look, I've been told really, we need to keep our distance.

And I think his response is, yes, I know. I know you've changed, and this and that.

But I'm torn. I'm trying to do what they say. But I'm also trying to be a friend to my best friend. And I'm not trying to hurt him by giving testimony or anything, I mean.


I mean, this is the thing I see. This guy has -- 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. We've been friends for so long. And just think now you're just, it's, I don't know. It's just very, it sucks.

COLLINS: Well, and the two of you were so close? And to go from having that and to having it now where you are, where you can't speak, it makes me remember this, something that Trump's Attorney General, Bill Barr, once said to me, which was that Trump kind of leaves this path of carnage, in his wake, of the people around him, that become wrapped up in these investigations, and scandals.

And is that what you feel like is happening here?

BUTLER: Well, I felt like it was a total no-win situation for me. I mean, they're asking me questions about my -- one of my best friends. I'm being honest. But I also have a bad feeling that what I'm saying is getting him into trouble. It's just not -- nobody should have to go through that.

And, for him to get out up there all the time and say the things he says about, you know, about this being a witch-hunt and everything? It's all it's just, he just can't take responsibility for anything.

COLLINS: It's really notable, to hear this coming from you, because you are someone, who was loyal to him. You worked for him for forever. You know him really well.


COLLINS: And so, I just wonder, you know that once this is public, he'll try to distance himself from you, or downplay your role.


COLLINS: How will you respond to that?

BUTLER: No, look, I expect nothing less. It's fine. I know the truth. I, you know, look, I'm not saying him and I were best friends, and talked every day. But he knew who I was. I knew who he was.

COLLINS: How do you view Trump, as a person now?

BUTLER: Unfavorably would be -- would be the word -- to put it easy, mildly.

COLLINS: How important is it for you here to tell the truth?

BUTLER: No. I mean, that's all we can do. I haven't tried to skirt anything with investigators, or anything. I just, I feel it's the right thing to do. It's the right thing for the country. I mean, this is so much bigger than me. It's bigger than Carlos. This is a nation that needs to decide, who's going to be the next president.


COLLINS: Ahead, more of our interview, including a disturbing story that Trump Employee 5, Brian Butler, heard with his own ears, what he says Donald Trump told a foreign billionaire, about classified information.

Plus, a former Trump Defense Secretary, and a former Justice Department attorney, will break down these explosive details with us, right after a quick break.



COLLINS: Our exclusive interview, with Brian Butler, offers really one of the deepest looks yet, at the inner workings of Mar-a-Lago, during the time that prosecutors say Donald Trump was seeking to hide classified documents, from government investigators.

I want to bring in Donald Trump's former Secretary of Defense, Mark Esper; and former federal prosecutor, Elliot Williams, to break what we've been listening to down, in this remarkable interview.

And Elliot, it's one thing to read these kind of vague details, and an indictment with no names. But to hear Brian Butler talk about how unknowingly, he was part of this effort, to move boxes, to Trump's plane, the day that the FBI is meeting with Trump's attorneys, about getting these documents, back at Mar-a-Lago?

I just wonder what you believe that could mean for Trump, especially on the obstruction front of this case.

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. Look, that's the power of live testimony. In court, you can read a transcript and certainly the same -- the words might be the same. But hearing somebody, who witnessed something, saw something, is immensely powerful for juries.

And it's, you have a witness that can act as an -- I've heard it called a tour guide, to walk through the facts as they occurred at trial. So, it's powerful.


And Secretary Esper, when you listen to this, obviously, you're someone, who was the Pentagon Chief, at the time when Donald Trump was in office.

And I want to just remind everyone what Trump told me about these documents.


TRUMP: I had every right to, under the Presidential Records Act.

Just so you understand, I had every right to do it. I didn't make a secret of it.


COLLINS: Secretary, if you think that, you're allowed to have these documents, as Trump has maintained for months now, why would they be moving them, at the same time that the attorneys are there, to meet with the FBI, about the very documents that have not been returned to the federal government?

MARK ESPER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, first of all, Kaitlan, what's interesting, about your interview was how casually, of course, the documents were handled.

Boxes from the storage room, from the storage room to a business room, from a business room to the plane, they're just casually being carried around by people with no security clearances. The boxes aren't marked, according to what he said.

And so, it's just this casualness, with highly sensitive information, which if you were in the Pentagon, it would have to be in a SCIF, which is a Secure Compartmented Information Facility, which is under lock-and-key. It's alarmed. It's got special walls, to prevent electronic eavesdropping.

I mean, and here, I see you're showing pictures. It's kept casually, carelessly, recklessly, in a bathroom, in a, you know, in an auditorium. And that's what kind of caught my attention, first of all. It's just more of the same.

But look, getting back to your question. The only reason why you'd be moving documents around is if you -- if you're trying to hide them from somebody, which of course undermines the President's argument that he was allowed to keep them, that he had declassified them, and that they were his.


And if he had properly declassified them, then he wouldn't need to move them around, and keep them out of the eyes of lawyers, of the FBI, whoever was conducting the searches.

COLLINS: Elliot, the other part that stuck out was about the surveillance footage. And what Brian Butler witnessed, to that degree, which, he described it like a puzzle that he was only really able to kind of put it together after the fact, and after he saw the indictment, and saw what these things that he was privy to really showed.

And the fact that he was getting calls, and they were just trying to look to see how long the surveillance footage server kept that footage, which we now know, they stand accused of attempting to delete that footage, the other two -- the two co-defendants in this case.

WILLIAMS: Yes, Kaitlan, we've been -- you and I, quite frankly, have been talking about this case, I think, seven or eight months now. And a point that I've made before is that the obstruction charges are some of the most damning that President Trump is facing, even to some extent, far more than some of the documents charges, which can be hard to prove, depending on the nature of the documents.

What you have here are individuals who number one, knew that an active investigation was going on, and number two, took affirmative steps, to conceal records, in connection with, with that investigation. That is, on its face, pretty plain obstruction of justice.

And with a witness that can testify as to, number one, what he saw, and number two, what he heard about, like we were saying a little bit earlier in the segment? That has a certain kind of power that transcripts and even photographs simply do not.

COLLINS: Secretary Esper, I've seen some former prosecutors talk about maybe the risk here, and having a witness, certainly a central witness come forward, and speak.

But I think it's important to remind people that Brian Butler is one at risk of his name, being exposed anyway, because Trump's legal team is fighting to have the names of witnesses released, publicly, before that goes to trial.

But two, he's concerned that it may never make it to trial. And he feels that voters have a right to know this information, to know what he saw, before they actually cast their ballots in November.

What did you make of that?

ESPER: Yes, good for him that he is taking that perspective of, really, a macro perspective of what's at stake.

I think the reporting has been that he expected it would be a trial by now. I think many did. Originally, if I recall, a date was possibly around May. At this point in time, I think it's been pushed off, although the Jack Smith and his team want it to be held this summer, in July.

But part of the Trump team's strategy, on all these case, is to push them off, keep pushing them off until after the election.

And as we know, from polling, if you look from the political side, not the legal side, but from the political side, we know that there is a segment of the Republican base, of likely Republican voters, who said that if Trump is convicted, they won't vote for him that that will make a difference for them.

So, I think all these legal and political factors are in play, right now, which is arguably a reason why he decided to come forward.

COLLINS: Secretary Esper. Elliot Williams. Thank you both for joining tonight.

WILLIAMS: Thanks, Kaitlan.

ESPER: Thank you, Kaitlan COLLINS: Coming up, here on THE SOURCE, more of that exclusive interview, with the longtime Mar-a-Lago employee, Brian Butler. We'll talk about whether he ever witnessed Donald Trump carelessly throwing around those national security secrets that the Secretary referenced there. One very vivid story came to mind, involving this foreign billionaire.



COLLINS: Donald Trump's history of discussing classified documents is something that we have covered extensively, here on THE SOURCE, including on moments like this one, at his Bedminster club, in New Jersey.


VOICE OF TRUMP: They presented me this.

All sorts of stuff. Pages long.

This is secret information.

But look, look at this. You attack, and


COLLINS: That's where Australian billionaire, Anthony Pratt, and businessman, comes in. The Mar-a-Lago member was often with Trump. And the topic of conversation, at one point, turned to the military.


ANTHONY PRATT, AUSTRALIAN BILLIONAIRE AND MAR-A-LAGO MEMBER: I hadn't even heard it, it hadn't even been on the news yet, and he said, 'I just bombed Iraq today.'


COLLINS: In our exclusive interview, tonight, the former Mar-a-Lago employee, who worked there, for two decades, Brian Butler, told me what he says are other secrets that he believes former President Trump -- that he overheard former President Trump was discussing with Pratt.


COLLINS: Were there ever any instances, when you were still working there, that you witnessed where Trump was, in your view, carelessly throwing around national security information?

BUTLER: This really stood out to me. But in, I believe it was April of 2021, there was a member, Anthony Pratt, who he was coming. He flew in the night before.

COLLINS: He's an Australian billionaire. BUTLER: He finishes his meeting with the former President, gets in the car. And his Chief of Staff says, how did the meeting go?

Pratt, without seeing, just says, he told me, and it would be U.S. military classified information, of what he told him, about Russian submarines and U.S. submarines.

And that's really all I remember hearing, and I went, what? I'm thinking this. I'm in the car. I'm like did I just hear that?


So, it wasn't like, oh, the meeting went well, we talked about -- it was, he went straight to the point. He told me that the U.S. subs and with the Russian subs, and something that would more than likely, in my mind, be classified.

COLLINS: So, it was clear to you that he was basically seeking access to Trump?

BUTLER: Oh, absolutely, absolutely. I mean, red flags went up in my mind, years before that.

COLLINS: So, Anthony Pratt, this Australian billionaire that you're talking about, he would pay a lot of money, to come and have these New Year's Eve party, at Mar-a-Lago?

BUTLER: So -- so, it might cost a $1,000, $1,500 per person. He was giving a million dollars. And I think, at the height, he had 30 or 40 people there. So, something that would be 50,000 -- let's just say max 50. Here's a guy that's just buying access. It's very easy to see.


COLLINS: A stunning revelation, from Trump Employee 5, Brian Butler, about that disclosure of classified information, at Trump's Mar-a-Lago club.

I want to bring in CNN's Senior Crime and Justice Reporter, Katelyn Polantz, who we broke this story together, she is my reporting partner in crime.

And Katelyn, it's great to have you here.

Just to talk about that moment specifically, where he was talking about what he overheard Anthony Pratt discussing, with another staffer, about what he heard from Trump, and just speaks to this entire investigation, and the classified documents aspect of it. But also, just the willy-nilly nature that classified information was apparently treated with at Mar-a-Lago.


Brian Butler, in that interview, he's talking about a specific moment, in the car, with Anthony Pratt, where Pratt comes out. And that's the first thing on his mind that he shares with his Chief of Staff, and with Butler, that Trump told him about nuclear submarine secrets and Russia.

And that is not just an anecdote that we should care about, because it's about classified information, potentially, or secret information. It's putting his finger, on why cases like this are charged.

And if you look at all of these filings that prosecutors make in this case, when they're arguing to the judge, about why this case should go to forward for trial, why this case has been charged? They talk about the mishandling of classified records, potentially in the wrong hands, and in front of the wrong people, that it jeopardizes national security. That's what's important here.

COLLINS: And we know Anthony Pratt has spoken to investigators.

Katelyn, you obviously know this case better than anyone. Standby, because I want to get more of your insights next, where you see that things are potentially headed for this, and why there's a real chance this won't go to trial.

Back in a moment.




Cracking the mystery of who is Trump Employee Number 5, and bringing you an exclusive interview, like ours tonight, doing that requires a team. And I could not have done it, we could not have done it, without my friend and my colleague, Katelyn Polantz, who has been on this case, since the beginning.

And Katelyn, knowing what you know, about this investigation, and how it's progressed, and what we've learned about all the people that the Special Counsel's Office has talked to, what stands out to you, about Brian Butler, the most, and his central role in so many aspects of this?

POLANTZ: Well, Kaitlan, Brian Butler is not going to be the only person, called to testify, at this trial. There are going to be a lot of people that would be on the witness list, to flesh out different aspects of the story, prosecutors will want to present to a jury about Donald Trump, and these classified records.

But the area that he flushes out the most, and it's so striking when he tells his story, and in the way that the indictment describes him, as Trump Employee 5, is that he's the window into the alleged cover- up.

He's the one that hears the call Trump makes to Carlos, about getting him an attorney. He's the one, who is hearing from Carlos De Oliveira, about Walt Nauta's interest in surveillance tapes. All of that pieces an aspect of this together that makes this such an

important criminal case. It's not just about what happened to the documents, after Trump left the presidency. There's this obstruction angle to it that really sets it apart. And so, you're likely to hear from him, on the witness stand.

But that is what he's doing. He's piecing together, not what Trump was doing, waving around the document, in Bedminster. He wasn't there for that. But he can tell you about the conspiracy, down the line, or the alleging -- the alleged conspiracy, against Walt Nauta, Carlos De Oliveira, and, of course, Trump at the top.

COLLINS: He also mentioned there, at the beginning, when we -- you and I first sat down with him, about Judge Cannon, and this effort that is underway to reveal the witnesses that could be called to testify. I mean, that's a big part of why he is coming forward now.

POLANTZ: Yes, Kaitlan, we are waiting to see what Judge Cannon does there, if she does want to reveal witness names. It is a possibility. She has already said she was interested in doing that.

But one thing happening here is the trial date. That's the other thing hanging over this case. It's been 11 days, since she visited that with the attorneys. When will this trial be? Will it be scheduled before the election? We don't have an answer yet.

We're going to be in court with her, again, on Thursday, watching the parties, and to see exactly what the judge here does, for the trial.


COLLINS: Katelyn Polantz, no one else I would rather do it -- break some news with, and do reporting with. Thank you, for this amazing team effort.

POLANTZ: Thank you. Thank you.

COLLINS: And thank you all so much, for joining us, for this exclusive interview, here tonight, on Trump Employee Number 5. We'll continue to monitor the follow of that. And watch closely to see what Judge Cannon decides, if she decides a trial date here.

In the meantime, "CNN NEWSNIGHT WITH ABBY PHILLIP" starts, right now.