Florida hearing turns into shouting match in Trump classified documents case


During a marathon event Mar-a-Lago classified documents caseThe morning’s trial before Judge Eileen Cannon turned into a shouting match between lawyers, and the afternoon’s series of arguments prompted the judge to wonder if the legal nuances of the case would be too difficult for jurors to understand.

The morning’s heated arguments in Fort Pierce, Florida, were scheduled for one of the former presidents, Walt Nauta. Donald TrumpHis co-defendants, special counsel Jack Smith’s team, filed charges of selective retaliation against him.

But the trial quickly devolved into a long-running disagreement between prosecutor Jay Pratt and Nauta’s lawyer, Stanley Woodward, over an August 2022 meeting. Woodward has filed court actions and filings that Pratt tried to pressure her to convince Nauta to cooperate against Trump. Cannon did not rule from the bench on Nauta’s motion to dismiss the case on that basis.

Cannon did not rule on a motion he heard during an afternoon session on Wednesday, brought by all three defendants in the case, saying the indictment contained technical flaws and that the charges should be dismissed.

Cannon seemed skeptical of those arguments, while also expressing concern about the jury’s ability to understand the legal nuances in the case at a future trial.

“Real people should decide these issues,” Cannon said.

Nauta says the former president is being criminally charged in the case in retaliation for his refusal to cooperate with a Justice Department investigation into his alleged possession of classified documents in his estate.

From the US Department of Justice

This photo from the U.S. Department of Justice shows Walt Nauta moving boxes into former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida.

“I was nominated for a judgeship, and that was beyond controversy,” Woodward said Wednesday. “There was a folder on the table about defense counsel” during that meeting, he said, adding that Pratt referred to the judge’s recommendation.

“I think the implication is that I have to travel and convince Mr. Nauta to cooperate with the investigation, and if I don’t, there will be consequences,” Woodward said.

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Attorney David Harbaugh later got up and accused Woodward of “playing the process” by making a “trash argument” about the meeting.

“Mr. Woodward’s story of what happened at that meeting is a fantasy,” shouted Harbach, slamming his hand on the lectern in front of him. “It didn’t happen.”

Hot action comes to Manhattan on Wednesday Hush money case It is nearing its conclusion and a new phase of pre-trial proceedings is underway against Trump Federal classified documents case In Florida.

The first trial before the canon after her Delay indefinitely The trial was scheduled to begin earlier this week. It’s been more than a month since the judge last held a public, in-person hearing in the case — though he held at least one sealed hearing.

Trump has been accused of taking classified national security documents from the White House after leaving office and resisting government efforts to retrieve the materials. Trump, Nauta and Mar-a-Lago property manager Carlos de Oliveira have pleaded not guilty.

During Wednesday’s hearing, Harbaugh blasted Woodward, telling him not to report the incident months later and repeatedly changing his memory of the conversation.

“This is a lawyer whose charges are based on extortion,” Harbaugh said of Woodward, waving his hands.

Woodward sat behind the lawyer with folded hands and bowed head.

The judge quickly scolded Harbaugh, telling the attorney to “keep calm.” Cannon questioned why evidence of what happened in the 2022 dialogue was not collected, “Why those comments? [about Woodward] have to do?”

“That’s not true, I didn’t say that,” Harbuck exclaimed. There is no record of the conversation between Pratt and Woodward, but Smith’s team has preserved any record of their meeting, the lawyer said.

Woodward walked back to the lecturer, said, “I’m here,” and offered to testify under oath about his recollection of the encounter.

Nauta’s request to dismiss the case is the first of two issues before Cannon on Wednesday. The afternoon hearing focused on the co-accused’s argument that the indictment should be dismissed on technical grounds.

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Trump had received permission from the judge to skip Wednesday’s proceedings.

Cannon says a jury may struggle to understand the charges

In adjourning the hearing, Cannon pointed to a mountain of unresolved pre-trial issues for not putting a new date on the calendar. Wednesday begins an extension of hearings scheduled for late July that will get the case through some — but not all — pre-trial hurdles.

During the afternoon portion of arguments Wednesday, defense attorneys raised concerns about how prosecutors structured the indictment, saying the wording for different charges in the same indictment was sometimes the same.

Prosecutor Jay Pratt said he was referring to different sections of the embargo statute used to charge both Trump and his staff. Pratt also indicated that jurors will be given clear instructions on the charges during the trial.

“One would be hard-pressed to figure out what else is in this number,” Cannon said, adding that “it would be a project.” Cannon has not yet set a trial date in the case Postponed indefinitely It was in a row earlier this month.

A Florida judge spent hours Wednesday debating what defense attorneys say were problems with the trial and prosecution of former President Nauta and a third co-defendant, Carlos de Oliveira. Defense theories ranged from allegations that prosecutors tried to extort money from Nauta’s attorney, to claims that prosecutors used inappropriate and “attention-seeking” descriptions of Mar-a-Lago in the indictment.

Cannon ultimately suggested that a “potpourri of criticisms” from the three defense teams was more appropriate for a jury to decide at a final hearing.

Several legal issues remain unresolved, including at least five motions to dismiss the criminal case. Cannon has repeatedly suggested that various legal issues could be pushed down the road and dealt with closer to trial.

Slow speed of the cannon in the case It has attracted criticism from outside legal experts, a Trump-appointed judge has accused the GOP’s presumptive White House nominee of playing late tricks. Unless Cannon picks up his pace significantly, the charges are unlikely to go before a jury before the 2024 election. If Trump wins the White House, the charges against him are expected to go away.

Until recently, many of Trump’s key proposals attacking the prosecution were not publicly documented. Proceedings are mired in debate over what should be revised in public filings.

On Tuesday, hundreds of pages of previously sealed court filings were released Published publicly As part of the former president’s attempt to get the charges against him thrown out. Those filings included a previously unsealed March 2023 ruling by a federal judge in Washington, D.C., that found there was “sufficient” evidence that Trump committed crimes and allowed investigators to obtain information from his former attorney.

Trump is seeking to toss out that evidence, as well as evidence obtained in an August 2022 FBI search of Mar-a-Lago, from which investigators obtained several documents that are the basis of several impeachment charges against Trump.

Those motions are not scheduled for argument Wednesday, and Cannon has not yet set a hearing.

In his order Sunday, Cannon attacked prosecutors for allowing the filings to be made public — one of several swipes at Smith’s office. He expressed “concern” that the special counsel’s office had requested redactions of information in the newly unsealed documents after it gave its collapse before full disclosure in earlier court filings.

“The court is disappointed with these developments. “The sealing and restitution provisions must be consistently and reasonably applied upon a sufficient factual and legal showing,” Cannon wrote. “Parties may not make claims that undermine any prior representation or position except upon full disclosure and appropriate explanation to the court.”

This topic and story has been updated with additional improvements.

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