At a routine hearing concerning the classified documents case brought against former President Donald Trump by Special Counsel Jack Smith, U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon abruptly cut short the proceedings after reprimanding the federal prosecution team for wasting her time with an unnecessary legal argument.
Attorney David Harbach had argued that Trump’s co-defendants, Walt Nauta and Carlos de Oliveira, should not have access to attorneys Stanley Woodward and John Irving due to potential conflicts of interest from their current or past clients who could be called as witnesses in the trial.
Nauta was brought on to work at Mar-a-Lago following Trump’s 2020 presidential election loss and subsequently faced six charges including obstruction of justice conspiracy and lying to police.
Oliveira, the property manager at Palm Beach estate when government forces stormed it in 2022, is suspected of helping Trump hide boxes of classified documents there from investigators. The hearing was intended to give them time to consider any risks associated with their attorneys but instead became a heated dispute.
As reported by The Palm Beach Post, “Attorneys at the defense table traded glances as the judge became shorter and shorter with Harbach” who went on to insist his position was supported by other court decisions despite Judge Cannon’s disagreement with his three examples provided.
When asked when they would reconvene for further discussion on this matter, she simply replied “Stay tuned” before adjourning the court session prematurely.
The New York Times reported: “At issue was a request by Mr. Smith’s team that Judge Cannon hold a hearing to make sure that Mr. Trump’s co-defendants — both of whom are employed by him — understood that their lawyers, who are being paid by a political action committee affiliated with the former president and who have represented witnesses in the case, had possible conflicts. In the case of one co-defendant, Carlos De Oliveira, the property manager at Mar-a-Lago, Mr. Trump’s private club and residence, the hearing proceeded largely without incident. Mr. De Oliveira’s lawyer, John Irving, had represented three witnesses in the case.”
Harbach argued before the court that Irving is under obligations of confidentiality and loyalty to former clients, and those may be challenged if he were to cross-examine these individuals in his defense of De Oliveira or question their credibility in summations to the jury.
It was noted that these arguments had not been included in prosecutor filings prior to the hearing. Furthermore, Irving stated that he no longer represents these witnesses while De Oliveira expressed his wish to retain Irving as his attorney.
The hearing also involved Walt Nauta, a personal aide to former President Trump, who was accused by Smith of obstructing the federal government’s probe into Trump’s handling of classified documents which he took with him upon leaving the White House.
“Mr. Harbach argued that Mr. Nauta’s lawyer, Stanley Woodward, had potential conflicts because of his past representation of another witness in the case. The witness has been identified in court papers only as Trump Employee. Still, people briefed on the matter have identified him as an internet technology aide at Mar-a-Lago named Yuscil Taveras,” The Times reported.
Woodward protested, telling Cannon that it wasn’t clear what the prosecutors were asking her to do or what they were arguing for, adding that under the current circumstances, it wouldn’t be fair to Nauta whether he waived his rights to a lawyer who did not have any conflicts.
“It seems intrinsically unfair to ask Mr. Nauta in this hypothetical world we’ve created” whether he was comfortable going forward with Woodward as his lawyer, Woodward told Cannon.
Cannon reprimanded government prosecutor Harbach for his lack of clarity in his request, deeming it impossible to properly hold a hearing under the existing conditions and thus necessitating its postponement.