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The federal judge overseeing the classified documents case against former President Donald Trump was abruptly ended last week after she reprimanded the federal prosecutorial team of special counsel Jack Smith.
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 scolded by the judge, a Trump appointee, for “wasting the court’s time” with an unnecessary legal argument.
Harbach claimed that Trump’s co-defendants, Walt Nauta, and Carlos de Oliveira, should not be given access to attorneys Stanley Woodward and John Irving because several of their current and former clients could be called to testify against them.
After Trump lost the 2020 presidential election to Joe Biden, he brought Nauta with him to work at Mar-a-Lago, his Palm Beach estate. When FBI agents stormed the Florida estate in August of 2022, Oliveira was the property manager.
The hearing was supposed to give Nauta and Oliveira time to “digest and contemplate the risks” associated with their attorneys’ possible conflicts of interest. However, it devolved into a heated exchange between Cannon and Smith’s prosecutors.
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 reported: “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 could meet again for further discussions on the matter, Cannon simply responded, “Stay tuned.”
“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,” The New York Times reported.
“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,” the Times added.
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 Times noted.
During the proceedings, Cannon 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.
Later, Harbach argued that Mr. Nauta’s lawyer, Stanley Woodward, likely had conflicts of interest because he had previously represented another witness in the case.
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.
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 the matter until a later date, the reports noted.