Anyone accused of a crime in the United States has a right to an attorney — but they don’t necessarily have the right to an attorney who may have inside information for another party in the case.
Donald Trump’s tendency to provide attorneys to those who might testify against him has come up before, such as when former aide Cassidy Hutchinson suddenly fired her Trump-aligned attorney and changed her testimony before the January 6th Committee.
This time, the situation arises in the criminal prosecution of Trump and two of his employees over retaining and shifting classified government documents.
Two employees, Walt Nauta and Carlos de Oliveira, are being represented by Stanley Woodward, a Trump-connected attorney who has represented many others in his orbit.
Judge Aileen Cannon, whose support of Trump has raised concerns, is planning to hear the government’s arguments about the matter in two separate hearings on October 12.
Special counsel Jack Smith’s team is expected to point out that Woodward has represented at least 7 individuals who may be called as witnesses and to argue that this creates a conflict of interest for the lawyer to represent defendants in the case. She ordered:
“Defendant Carlos De Oliveira’s hearing will commence at 1:00 P.M. Defendant Waltine Nauta’s hearing will commence at 3:00 P.M. Defendants De Oliveira and Nauta, associated defense counsel, and attorneys for the Office of Special Counsel must be present. The potential witnesses identified in the Special Counsel’s 97 123 Motions need not appear. The Office of Special Counsel shall be prepared to articulate the nature and scope of the potential conflicts identified in its 97 123 Motions, along with any evidence in support. Defendants shall be prepared to respond.”
Nauta’s counsel has already submitted a brief suggesting another way of addressing the potential conflict of interest. The attorney wrote:
“Moreover, even were a conflict to arise from Trump Employee 4’s anticipated testimony, the Court should exercise its authority to preclude his testimony to avoid any conflict of interest insofar as the charges against Mr. Nauta that relate to Trump Employee 4 were brought only after, ‘a grand jury in the District of Columbia continued to investigate further obstructive activity.'”
In plain speech, it’s a suggestion to simply bar Taveras from testifying that Nauta told him Trump wanted the server containing security footage deleted, with the excuse being that Taveras only agreed to testify when the Grand Jury continued to investigate after bringing initial charges.
Preventing that testimony would, of course, be beneficial to the defense, but doesn’t necessarily cure the potential conflict of interest, especially since there are several other witnesses who have also been represented by Woodward.
Steph Bazzle is a news writer who covers politics and theocracy, always aiming for a world free from extremism and authoritarianism. Follow Steph on Twitter @imjustasteph. Sign up for all of her stories to be delivered to your inbox here: