Judge hears arguments from Trump co-defendants seeking to have documents charges dropped

Judge Aileen Cannon heard arguments from Walt Nauta and Carlos De Oliveira.

April 12, 2024, 5:36 PM

The judge overseeing former President Donald Trump's classified documents case heard arguments Friday from Trump's co-defendants Walt Nauta and Carlos De Oliveira on motions to have the charges against them dismissed.

U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon did not immediately rule on any of the motions.

The judge also did not address the date of the upcoming trial, which is currently on the public docket for May 20 but is expected to be delayed following recent arguments from both the defense and the special counsel who brought the case.

Nauta, Trump's longtime aide, and De Oliveira, the property manager at Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate, pleaded not guilty last August, along with Trump, to obstruction charges related to alleged attempts to delete Mar-a-Lago surveillance footage, after Trump pleaded not guilty in June to 37 criminal counts related to his handling of classified materials after leaving the White House.

John Irving, the attorney for De Oliveira, asked the court on Friday to dismiss the charges against his client on the grounds that De Oliveira was unaware of any subpoenas issued to Trump for the classified documents.

Irving said the indictment "failed to allege that Mr. De Oliveira committed any crime."

In response, prosecutor Jay Bratt said prosecutors only have to prove that De Oliveira "knew there was an 'official proceeding'" and were not required to prove that De Oliveira knew about the subpoenas.

PHOTO: Walt Nauta, personal aide to former President Donald Trump, during a campaign event at Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa, Jan. 14, 2024.
Walt Nauta, personal aide to former President Donald Trump, during a campaign event at Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa, Jan. 14, 2024.
Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Nauta's attorney Stanley Woodward argued that the case should be dismissed based on "unconstitutional vagueness," arguing that the use of the word "corruptly" in the indictment as applied to Nauta is "void for vagueness."

Prosecutors have accused Nauta of lying to the FBI in May of 2022 when he told agents that that he was unaware of boxes being brought to Trump's residence and said he didn't know where they had been stored before they were taken there. A transcript of that interview was made public on the court's docket Friday morning.

Four days after the FBI interview, on May 30, prosecutors say Nauta removed a total of approximately 50 boxes from a storage room -- then, after the Trump Organization received a subpoena for video footage that would have shown his movements, prosecutors allege that Nauta and another Trump aide attempted to delete that security footage.

Woodward, on Friday, made a lengthy argument about the movement of the boxes in question and his client's knowledge of whether the boxes contained classified markings.

The indictment, Woodward said, has "no language that Nauta saw classification markings in the boxes."

"Show us the evidence," Woodward said. "How could anyone know there were classified documents bearing classification markings?"

"Sounds like you have a jury argument," Judge Cannon replied.

Woodward also argued the indictment does not address how some boxes were moved to the storage room before an FBI search, saying in court that the information is critical to his defense.

"We don't know how the boxes that contained classified markings got [to the storage room]," Woodward argued. "I can't prepare Mr. Nauta's defense."

At the end of the hearing, Judge Cannon asked both parties to address grand jury information in the case and how it's been handled -- including the special counsel quoting grand jury transcripts in public filings, and grand jury exhibits that have been attached to pre-trial motions -- saying she was struggling to understand the process and what's been going on in the background.

She ordered the special counsel to file a status report under seal to provide a lay of the land about how the material is being used and if there are any outstanding grand jury matters.

Bratt confirmed there are no pending grand jury matters related to the investigation.

Friday's hearing came one week after Cannon denied one of Trump's requests to have the documents case dismissed based on the Presidential Records Act.

Trump's attorneys had argued, as part of multiple motions to dismiss, that Trump should have been able to have custody of the documents in question and declare them as personal records, even after he was president, due to the Presidential Records Act.

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