Lawyers for Donald Trump and Waltine “Walt” Nauta accused prosecutors of improperly using a Washington grand jury to gather evidence after they were charged in Florida with mishandling classified information and obstructing an investigation.
(Bloomberg) — Lawyers for Donald Trump and Waltine “Walt” Nauta accused prosecutors of improperly using a Washington grand jury to gather evidence after they were charged in Florida with mishandling classified information and obstructing an investigation.
The former president and his personal aide were indicted in June by a South Florida grand jury. But much of the investigation unfolded in Washington in the months leading up to that. Special Counsel Jack Smith’s office said prosecutors continued to use a grand jury in the nation’s capital after securing the original indictment, before a Florida grand jury returned an expanded, superseding version on July 27.
Nauta’s lawyers, joined by Trump’s defense team, argued in a Thursday night court brief that using the panels in two locations was improper — and that it could affect the government’s ability to use evidence it added in the latest indictment. Smith’s office is due to file a response on Aug. 22.
Read More: Trump Documents Case Judge Reviewing DOJ Use of Two Grand Juries
The grand jury issue was first raised amid a different dispute — over whether there are conflicts of interest related to Nauta’s lawyer, Stanley Woodward, who also represented potential witnesses the government planned to call at trial. Prosecutors want US District Judge Aileen Cannon to hold a hearing on the conflict issue and had noted that they continued to use the Washington grand jury after the Florida indictment was handed up.
Woodward previously represented an unnamed witness who worked at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort and allegedly was told that “the boss” — an apparent reference to Trump — wanted surveillance camera footage deleted. Prosecutors used that witness in adding obstruction allegations related to the surveillance footage in the latest version of the indictment, along with a new defendant, Carlos De Oliveira, a property manager at Mar-a-Lago.
Nauta’s lawyers argued there was no conflict of interest, but even if there was, they said that the solution was to bar the government from using the unnamed witness’s testimony as a consequence for their “improper” use of the Washington grand jury.
Lawyers are allowed to represent multiple clients in a single case, but judges are supposed to make sure that no one’s rights are harmed in the process. The government typically has an interest in highlighting potential defense conflicts because it’s an issue a defendant could raise later to challenge a conviction.
Multiple grand juries
Although Trump’s lawyers signaled at an earlier hearing that they were looking into the government’s use of two grand juries, Cannon on her own ordered the parties to address the issue.
A long line of court rulings have held that prosecutors can’t go back to a grand jury to gather more evidence once they’ve brought an indictment. But there are exceptions if the government is investigating other crimes or potential defendants. A case also can’t be presented to a grand jury in a given location unless it’s where the alleged offense took place.
Key moments in the classified documents investigation took place in Washington, starting with the transfer of boxes of government records from the White House when Trump left in January 2021 and efforts by the National Archives and Records Administration to get them back. Legal experts predicted prosecutors would face an early fight over the venue if they charged Trump in Washington, since the bulk of the indictment covers the fate of the documents after they were brought to his Palm Beach resort.
Prosecutors allege Trump illegally held on to sensitive records classified at the highest levels of secrecy. They claim he then conspired with Nauta and De Oliveira to defy a grand jury subpoena for those materials. The three have pleaded not guilty, with a trial scheduled for May 20.
Earlier this week prosecutors raised a concern about De Oliveira’s attorney John Irving, asking Cannon to hold a hearing about his representation of three people who also might be called at trial by the government. The judge hasn’t set a schedule on that issue yet.
The case is US v. Trump, 23-cr-80101, US District Court, Southern District of Florida (West Palm Beach).
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