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Judge says Trump aide can keep his lawyer in Mar-a-Lago documents case

Walt Nauta (left), an aide to former President Donald Trump, arrives with defense attorney Stanley Woodward for a July hearing in federal court in Fort Pierce, Fla.
Lynne Sladky
/
AP
Walt Nauta (left), an aide to former President Donald Trump, arrives with defense attorney Stanley Woodward for a July hearing in federal court in Fort Pierce, Fla.

FORT PIERCE, Fla. — A federal judge says one of former President Trump's co-defendants in the Mar-a-Lago classified documents case can keep his lawyer despite an apparent conflict of interest.

Trump is accused of keeping classified and top-secret documents at his private club after he left the White House and then conspiring with his personal aide and Mar-a-Lago's property manager to obstruct justice. All three have pleaded not guilty.

Federal prosecutors say the aide, Walt Nauta, moved dozens of boxes containing documents at Trump's direction at Mar-a-Lago and then lied to federal investigators about it. Investigators eventually conducted a raid at the club and seized more than 100 classified and top-secret documents.

Nauta is represented by attorney Stanley Woodward, who once represented another Trump employee involved in the case, Mar-a-Lago IT manager Yuscil Taveras. In July, Taveras cut ties with Woodward, hired another lawyer and began cooperating with the government.

Taveras is likely to be a key witness. He's expected to testify that Nauta and property manager Carlos de Oliveira unsuccessfully tried to get him to delete surveillance camera footage before it was seized by federal investigators.

Prosecutors have argued that because Woodward once represented Taveras, he cannot ethically cross-examine his former client or seek to undermine his credibility as a witness.

In court Thursday, Woodward told U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon that he agreed to those conditions. And after extended questioning by Cannon, Nauta agreed to waive his right to a conflict-free counsel.

Under those conditions, Cannon said, Woodward can continue as Nauta's lawyer. Woodward also represents an as-yet unnamed Trump employee who is expected to testify at the trial.

The trial is scheduled to begin in May 2024. Trump's lawyers have repeatedly said that the sheer volume of documents and other evidence that they've received from prosecutors might require the trial's start date to be pushed back until after the 2024 presidential election.

Judge Cannon has set a hearing in early November to discuss those concerns and the trial's schedule.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Greg Allen
As NPR's Miami correspondent, Greg Allen reports on the diverse issues and developments tied to the Southeast. He covers everything from breaking news to economic and political stories to arts and environmental stories. He moved into this role in 2006, after four years as NPR's Midwest correspondent.