Advertisement

Judge Overseeing Mar-a-Lago Case Cuts Hearing Short, Scolds Jack Smith

Advertisement

OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.


A routine hearing in the classified documents case brought against former President Donald Trump by Special Counsel Jack Smith was abruptly cut short after the judge reprimanded the federal prosecution team.

U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon “postponed a hearing on whether one of Mr. Trump’s co-defendants understood that his lawyer might have conflicts of interest,” The New York Times reported.

Also, Justice Department attorney David Harbach was reprimanded by Cannon for “wasting the court’s time” with an unnecessary legal argument.

Harbach argued that Trump’s co-defendants, Walt Nauta and Carlos de Oliveira, should not have access to attorneys Stanley Woodward and John Irving, because several of the attorneys’ current and former clients might be called to testify against them.

After Trump lost the 2020 presidential election to President Joe Biden, he brought Nauta with him to work at Mar-a-Lago, his Palm Beach estate. When the government stormed Trump’s Florida estate in the summer of 2022, Oliveira was the property manager there.

Advertisement

The hearing was supposed to give Nauta and Oliveira time to “digest and contemplate the risks” associated with their attorneys’ possible conflicts of interest, but instead, it degenerated into a heated argument.

Nauta faces six charges, including obstruction of justice conspiracy, and lying to police. Prosecutors say the Trump aide was instrumental in covering up Trump’s possession of classified documents. Oliveira is accused of assisting Trump in hiding boxes of classified documents at the Palm Beach estate from investigators.

The Palm Beach Post wrote, “Attorneys at the defense table traded glances as the judge became shorter and shorter with Harbach. He insisted that his position was ‘unremarkable’ and supported by other court decisions, though Cannon took a dim view of the three he offered her.”

When asked when the lawyers would meet again to discuss the matter, Cannon simply said, “Stay tuned.”

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.”

Advertisement

Harbach argued before the court that Irving is under obligations of confidentiality and loyalty to former clients, and those may be challenged if he was to cross-examine them in his defense of De Oliveira “or question their credibility in summations to the jury,” the Time reported.

During the proceedings, observed that those arguments had not been included in prosecutor filings before the hearing. Irving told the judge that he no longer represents those witnesses. De Oliveira, who was asked several questions by Cannon after he explained that English is not his native language, said he wished to retain Irving as his attorney, the outlet noted.

The hearing became more convoluted when Cannon, who was appointed by Trump, took up the case of Walt Nauta, who is a personal aide to the former president. Nauto and De Oliveira were both accused by Smith of taking part in obstructing the federal government’s probe into Trump’s handling of classified documents that he took with him when he left 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.

Advertisement

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.

At that point, Cannon rebuked government prosecutor Harbach for being too vague in his request. She then ruled it wasn’t possible to fairly hold a hearing under the current circumstances, leading her to postpone later.

Advertisement
Test your skills with this Quiz!