In the ongoing pretrial proceedings related to former President Donald Trump’s criminal trials, Judge Aileen Cannon expressed frustration with prosecutors for what she considered an unnecessary diversion of the court’s resources. According to Judge Cannon, prosecutors are “frankly wasting the court’s time.”
The case revolves around allegations against Trump for improper handling of classified documents. This case is complicated by the fact that several lawyers, funded by Trump’s Save America PAC, have represented Trump associates and staff.
Prosecutors voiced concerns in Thursday’s hearing that lawyers defending two Mar-a-Lago employees, who are also facing charges for mishandling classified documents, had also previously represented other Trump associates. These associates might be potential witnesses in the trial. Prosecutor David Harbach emphasized the possible conflict of interest this presents. Specifically, he questioned whether lawyer Stanley Woodward should be allowed to cross-examine his former client and raised issues about the arguments Woodward might use in the trial.
Judge Cannon pointed out that the prosecutor’s concerns expanded beyond what had been initially mentioned in the court documents, indicating another hearing would be necessary because of their failure to provide all the concerns raised at the hearing via a motion so that the matter could be reviewed and dealt with promptly.
This back-and-forth between the defense and prosecution is part of the ongoing strategic battle as both sides navigate the complexities of Trump’s two federal trials, which address the mishandling of classified documents and allegations of attempts to overturn his 2020 election loss.
The core of the charges being tried in South Florida revolves around special counsel Jack Smith’s claims. Trump is accused of improperly retaining sensitive military information, sharing it, and orchestrating attempts to elude officials trying to retrieve the documents. Trump and employees Walt Nauta and Carlos De Oliveira are also charged with trying to eliminate Mar-a-Lago’s surveillance records to keep them from a grand jury.
The potential conflict of interest surfaced in August when prosecutors sought clarity on whether Woodward, representing Nauta, might be a conflict of interest. Woodward had also represented several others questioned in the investigation, including key potential witness Yuscil Taveras, Mar-a-Lago’s IT director. Woodward’s relationship with Taveras is particularly interesting, especially after Taveras, under new legal counsel, provided investigators with potentially damaging information.
Harbach argued that it was improbable that Woodward wasn’t privy to confidential information about Taveras, suggesting the court might restrict his ability to question Taveras during the trial.
A similar issue arose with John Irving, representing De Oliveira. Irving has also represented individuals who might testify against De Oliveira. Despite these potential conflicts, De Oliveira expressed his desire for Irving to continue as his lawyer and relinquished his right to claim a conflict of interest post-trial.
As the trial date approaches in May, Trump wants to delay the trial until after the November elections. Trump is currently leading in various polls. His legal team is arguing for more time to review evidence and resolve related issues.
Trump’s lawyers recently stated that the rapid succession of trials demonstrates the prosecutor’s intention to secure a conviction before the 2024 elections “regardless of the consequences.”
Prosecutors, however, are pushing for the trial to commence as scheduled on May 20, stating that they have provided thorough and organized documentation to the defense.