NATIONAL NEWS

Heated hearing in classified documents case as lawyer for Trump co-defendant challenges prosecutors

May 21, 2024, 9:22 PM | Updated: May 22, 2024, 2:30 pm

FORT PIERCE, Fla. (AP) — A lawyer for Donald Trump’s personal valet took aim at the conduct of prosecutors in the classified documents case in a heated hearing Wednesday, the first since a judge indefinitely postponed the trial.

Stanley Woodward, a lawyer for Walt Nauta, said prosecutors had targeted his client for prosecution after he refused to cooperate against Trump in the investigation. Nauta was charged alongside Trump last year in a federal case accusing them of conspiring to conceal boxes of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s estate in Palm Beach, Florida.

The defense lawyer also said a prosecutor in the case had warned him earlier in the investigation that he needed to be careful or he would “mess up” his bid for a Washington, D.C., judgeship, a comment Woodward interpreted as designed to get him to pressure Nauta to assist the inquiry.

But David Harbach, a prosecutor with Justice Department special counsel Jack Smith’s team, which brought the case, called Woodward’s allegations “garbage” and “fantasy.” He said the statements attributed to his colleague, Jay Bratt, had been taken out of context. Woodward said he would be willing to testify under oath about the exchange.

The encounter laid bare the simmering tensions between the two sides in a case that has been mired in delays and slowed by legal disputes that the Trump-appointed judge, Aileen Cannon, has yet to resolve. The case, among four criminal prosecutions against Trump, had been set for trial on May 20 but Cannon canceled the trial date earlier this month.

Woodward conceded to Cannon that there was insufficient evidence to dismiss the indictment on grounds of vindictive prosecution. But he said there was enough for her to order prosecutors to turn over all communication they had about Nauta to see if hostility existed.

He said he believed his client was only being prosecuted because he refused to testify against Trump and because he asserted his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination by refusing to testify a second time before a grand jury.

“There was a campaign to get Mr. Nauta to cooperate in the first federal prosecution of a former president of the United States and when he refused, they prosecuted him,” Woodward told the judge. “That’s a violation of his constitutional rights.”

Prosecutor Harbach pushed back on Woodward’s arguments, saying it was common for defendants to be offered better treatment if they cooperate,

“There is not a single bit of evidence of animus toward Mr. Nauta,” Harbach said,

Trump was not present for the hearing. The GOP presumptive presidential nominee for 2024 has pleaded not guilty and denied any wrongdoing.

The arguments came one day after a newly unsealed motion revealed that defense lawyers are seeking to exclude evidence from the boxes of records that FBI agents seized during an August 2022 search of Mar-a-Lago.

The defense lawyers asserted in the motion that the search was unconstitutional and illegal and the FBI affidavit filed in justification of it was tainted by misrepresentations.

Smith’s team rejected each of those accusations and defended the investigative approach as “measured” and “graduated.” It said the search warrant was obtained after investigators collected surveillance video showing what it said was a concerted effort to conceal the boxes of classified documents inside the property.

“The warrant was supported by a detailed affidavit that established probable cause and did not omit any material information. And the warrant provided ample guidance to the FBI agents who conducted the search. Trump identifies no plausible basis to suppress the fruits of that search,” prosecutors wrote.

The defense motion was filed in February but was made public on Tuesday, along with hundreds of pages of documents from the investigation that were filed to the case docket in Florida.

Those include a previously sealed opinion last year from the then-chief judge of the federal court in Washington, which said that Trump’s lawyers, months after the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago, had turned over four additional documents with classification markings that were found in Trump’s bedroom.

That March 2023 opinion from U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell directed a former lead lawyer for Trump in the case to abide by a grand jury subpoena and to turn over materials to investigators, rejecting defense arguments that their cooperation was prohibited by attorney-client privilege and concluding that prosecutors had made a “prima facie” showing that Trump had committed a crime.

___

Tucker reported from Washington.

National News

President Joe Biden arrives on Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Saturday, July 13, 202...

Associated Press

Biden tries to balance his condemnation of the attack on Trump with the ongoing 2024 campaign

WASHINGTON (AP) — Homeland security and law enforcement officials were briefing President Joe Biden on Sunday about the apparent assassination attempt on his predecessor, Donald Trump, as the White House continued to call for national unity and condemn the stunning act of violence. Vice President Kamala Harris was joining Biden for an update from top […]

20 minutes ago

FILE - President Ronald Reagan waves and then looks up before being shoved into the President's lim...

Associated Press

Reagan survived an assassination attempt and his response changed the trajectory of his presidency

WASHINGTON (AP) — The would-be assassin got off six shots in 1.7 seconds, nearly taking the life of a president and changing the trajectory of a presidency. It happened on a dreary March afternoon in 1981. President Ronald Reagan was leaving the Washington Hilton hotel after giving a speech to a union group when John […]

2 hours ago

A 150 million year old dinosaur skeleton is displayed at the Natural History Museum's new welcome c...

Associated Press

Gnatalie is the only green-boned dinosaur found on the planet. She will be on display in LA

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The latest dinosaur being mounted at the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles is not only a member of a new species — it’s also the only one found on the planet whose bones are green, according to museum officials. Named “Gnatalie” (pronounced Natalie) for the gnats that swarmed during the […]

2 hours ago

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is helped off the stage by U.S. Sec...

Associated Press

What we know about the 20-year-old suspect in the apparent assassination attempt of Donald Trump

WASHINGTON (AP) — The man identified as the shooter in the apparent assassination attempt of former President Donald Trump was a 20-year-old from a Pittsburg suburb not far from the campaign rally where one attendee was killed. Authorities say Thomas Matthew Crooks of Bethel Park, Pennsylvania, opened fire at the rally before being killed by […]

3 hours ago

Associated Press

Trump is injured but ‘fine’ after apparent assassination attempt leaves rally-goer and gunman dead

BUTLER, Pa. (AP) — On the heels of an apparent attempt to kill him, former President Donald Trump called Sunday for unity and resilience as shocked leaders across the political divide recoiled from the shooting that left him injured but “fine” and the gunman and a rally-goer dead. The presumptive Republican presidential nominee said the […]

3 hours ago

FILE - An Amazon worker delivers packages in Los Angeles on Oct. 1, 2020. July sales events have be...

Associated Press

Amazon Prime Day deals are almost here. Should you take advantage of them?

NEW YORK (AP) — It’s summertime, and the bargains seem easy at a time when many consumer prices are high. July sales events have become a seasonal revenue driver for the retail industry since Amazon launched its first Prime Day back in 2015. While consumers may be enticed by the advertised can’t-miss savings on some […]

7 hours ago

Heated hearing in classified documents case as lawyer for Trump co-defendant challenges prosecutors