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Judge In Trump Documents Case Rips Jack Smith’s Prosecutors Over Conflicts

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


The federal judge overseeing the classified documents case against former President Donald Trump took special counsel Jack Smith’s prosecutors to task during a Thursday hearing regarding a potential conflict involving a lawyer in the case.

U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon “postponed a hearing on whether one of Trump’s co-defendants understood that his lawyer might have conflicts of interest,” The New York Times reported, going on to say that she also admonished the prosecutorial team for “wasting” time.

“I do want to admonish the government for frankly wasting the court’s time,” Cannon of the Federal District Court in Fort Pierce, Fla., told David Harbach, a prosecutor working with the special counsel Jack Smith on the case.

The Times added: “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.”

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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.

Cannon, 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 Irving told the judge that he no longer represents those witnesses.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.

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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 4, but people briefed on the matter have identified him as an internet technology aide at Mar-a-Lago named Yuscil Taveras,” The Times reported.

“Mr. Taveras changed his testimony to the grand jury about the involvement of Mr. Nauta and Mr. De Oliveira in Mr. Trump’s alleged interest in deleting security footage from the club that the government had subpoenaed,” the paper continued.

At one point, 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, according to The Times.

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 it for a later date, the Times added.

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