Mar-a-Lago judge blasted for late trial date: "Cannon is slow-walking this case to benefit Trump"

The Trump appointee also denied the special counsel's request for outside attorneys to be present at the hearings

By Tatyana Tandanpolie

Staff Writer

Published September 26, 2023 3:22PM (EDT)

Donald Trump | Mar A Lago (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
Donald Trump | Mar A Lago (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

Judge Aileen Cannon, the U.S. District Court Judge for the Southern District of Florida presiding over Donald Trump's classified documents case, granted on Monday special counsel Jack Smith's request to schedule hearings inspecting potential conflicts of interest for two Trump attorneys representing Trump's co-defendants, Walt Nauta and Carlos De Oliveira.

As The Guardian reports, the decision follows the Justice Department's complaints about Trump's offer to pay for the legal counsel of those implicated in his legal battles and comes after the department warned Cannon that the two lawyers — Stanley Woodward and John Irving, who represent Nauta and De Oliveira, respectively — are also working for other clients who could be called as witnesses against the two defendants.

Woodward has represented "at least seven other individuals who have been questioned in connection with the investigation," including individuals who have testified about Nauta, the DOJ wrote last month. Irving is serving as a counsel to a witness the Justice Department said "has information demonstrating the falsity of statements De Oliveira has made to the government." That witness "also has information about De Oliveira's loyalty to Trump and about De Oliveira's involvement in the replacement of a lock—at the direction of Trump—on a closet inside Trump's residence at Mar-a-Lago on June 2, 2022, the day Nauta and De Oliveira moved boxes" in and out of a storage room at the club, the department added.

The dual proceedings, known as Garcia hearings, have been scheduled for Oct. 12. The hearing for De Oliveira, the property manager for Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort club, is slated for 1 p.m., and the hearing for Nauta, a valet for the former president, is scheduled for 3 p.m. later that day.

We need your help to stay independent

Legal experts criticized Cannon's pace in scheduling for the classified docs case with some accusing the Trump appointee of setting an elongated timeline to the former president's benefit. 

"It really appears Cannon is slow-walking this case to benefit Trump," former federal prosecutor Randall Eliason, wrote on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. "She's already had these motions for weeks, and schedules the hearings more than two weeks from now? And this after taking weeks to issue a standard protective order."

"The evidence that Judge Cannon is learning on the job is the time it took her to schedule these routine conflict hearings- which are to assure the defendants' 6th amendment right to counsel,"  Andrew Weissmann, a former assistant U.S. attorney, added. 

"Finally. After sitting on this for a while, will be interesting to see how this pans out," retired lawyer Mike Grubman tweeted. "Entire hearing could be under seal, and no surprise if Cannon leans heavily in favor of attys paid for by Trump, imho."

Though she agreed to schedule the hearings, Cannon denied the remainder of the special counsel's request, which included an ask for independent attorneys to be available at the proceedings to advise Nauta and De Oliveira about the conflicts that could prevent Woodward and Irving from best and completely representing their interests. 

Want a daily wrap-up of all the news and commentary Salon has to offer? Subscribe to our morning newsletter, Crash Course.

"Representing multiple people connected to the same criminal allegations can result in a conflict where an atty must cross-examine a witness who is also his client, Vigorous cross-ex might expose the witness-client's confidences or, the atty might feel compelled to pull his punches during cross-ex to protect the client," former U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance explained on X Tuesday.

"Her denial of parts of the request was 'w/out prejudice' meaning she can reconsider. But there's no explanation of her denial-it's just a minute order on the docket," she added.

Including independent attorneys in the hearing, Vance noted in a Monday thread, led another Woodward client who was being investigated by a Washington, D.C. grand jury in this case earlier this year, to flip. Mar-a-Lago IT worker Yuscil Taveras chose to cooperate with the government after a judge gave him the chance to speak with an outside attorney who was not Trump-aligned.

Shortly after his meeting with independent counsel, Taveras disclosed to prosecutors the details that bolstered the case's superseding indictment and led to charges against De Oliveira, which include obstruction of justice and lying to authorities. 

By Tatyana Tandanpolie

Tatyana Tandanpolie is a staff writer at Salon. Born and raised in central Ohio, she moved to New York City in 2018 to pursue degrees in Journalism and Africana Studies at New York University. She is currently based in her home state and has previously written for local Columbus publications, including Columbus Monthly, CityScene Magazine and The Columbus Dispatch.

MORE FROM Tatyana Tandanpolie

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Aggregate Aileen Cannon Classified Docs Donald Trump Jack Smith News