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Judge Cannon skeptical of Trump co-defendants’ arguments to dismiss charges

FORT PIERCE, Fla. — U.S. District Judge Aileen M. Cannon on Friday expressed skepticism about dropping charges against Donald Trump’s two co-defendants in the classified documents case and suggested their arguments for of dismissal would be better suited as a defense at trial.

Lawyers for Walt Nauta and Carlos De Oliveira — both of whom are still employed by Trump — argued that the charges against them should be dropped, in part because the indictment accused them of obstructing efforts authorities to retrieve classified documents from Trump’s property without providing details. proof that employees were aware of an ongoing investigation or knew that the document boxes contained classified documents.

Prosecutors said the information in the indictment was sufficient and that they did not need to disclose the evidence they would use at this stage of the proceedings. Cannon seemed to agree and said defense attorneys could present those arguments to a jury.

“So why wouldn’t that be a trial argument?” » she asked the defense attorney several times during the two-hour hearing Friday afternoon.

Yet she appeared to struggle with multiple requests from defense attorneys, asking both sides pointed questions about precedent and evidence. She was not required to hold a hearing and could have made a decision based solely on their written arguments.

Cannon, a relatively inexperienced judge who was appointed by Trump in late 2020, has not indicated when she will issue her ruling. The judge is still debating other key decisions in the pretrial proceedings that keep the case from moving closer to a trial and has yet to set a firm date for trial — leaving the big question of find out if Trump will be tried in Florida before the 2024 election.

Trump has been the focus of much of the pretrial hearings in the case. But Friday’s hearing brought the co-defendants’ cases center stage, providing a window into the two men’s potential defenses: They were simply doing their jobs when they allegedly moved boxes and discussed deleted security footage, and were unaware of the ongoing federal investigation. .

Prosecutors say Nauta and De Oliveira conspired with the former president to obstruct the investigation and thwart officials’ attempts to recover government documents that Trump took with him after leaving the White House. Prosecutors say the men misled investigators with their statements and plotted to delete security footage to prevent officials from recovering the boxes.

Nauta is also charged with crimes related to allegations that he moved dozens of boxes from a storage room at Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s Florida home and private club, to Trump’s residential quarters while investigators were trying to locate them.

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Nauta, a Trump aide who always travels with him, and De Oliveira, the Mar-a-Lago property manager, face eight and four counts, respectively, and have pleaded not guilty.

Trump faces 40 charges in the case, including 32 charges for allegedly violating part of the Espionage Act for possessing 32 documents that prosecutors say contained sensitive government information. Nauta and De Oliveira are not charged with any crime related to document retention.

Cannon’s hearing Friday focused on motions to dismiss the case filed by Nauta and De Oliveira. The motions claim there is no evidence that Nauta or De Oliveira knew there were classified documents in the boxes or that they were aware of the ongoing government investigation. For this reason, their lawyers say, the facts set forth in the indictment do not support the government’s charges against them. They also argued that some of the charges against them are unconstitutionally vague and redundant.

John Irving, a lawyer for De Oliveira, described the allegations against his client as the equivalent of accusing a getaway driver of being a conspirator in a crime, when the getaway driver is actually an Uber driver who did not had no idea who the people in his car were. TO DO.

“It’s impossible to obstruct an investigation that we don’t know anything about,” Irving said.

Prosecutors said they only needed to prove that the defendants knew about an investigation — not that they knew the details or what a subpoena required.

“We don’t need to make these arguments now,” prosecutor Jay Bratt said.

Trump filed more than half a dozen motions to dismiss the case, with Nauta and De Oliveira joining some of them. Cannon had already held a hearing on two of Trump’s motions to dismiss the case, rejecting both.

Motions to dismiss are generally lengthy arguments that are rarely successful. Irving and Stanley Woodward, Nauta’s lawyer, also asked Cannon to require the government to submit a statement of particulars – a document that would provide more details about the evidence underlying the charges in the act of accusation.

Prosecutors said the indictment was detailed and that laying out the details would be an unnecessary burden that would force them to reveal their trial strategies.

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