Judge Cannon cast doubt on the Trump co-defendants' arguments to dismiss the charges

Fort PIERCE, Fla. – U.S. District Judge Eileen M. on dropping charges against two of Donald Trump's co-defendants in the classified documents case. Cannon seemed skeptical Friday, and suggested their arguments for dismissal would be more relevant during the trial.

Attorneys for Walt Nauta and Carlos de Oliveira — both still employed by Trump — argued that the charges against them should be dismissed in part because the indictment alleges they obstructed authorities' efforts to retrieve classified material from Trump's property without clearly providing it. Evidence that employees were aware of an ongoing investigation or were aware of the presence of classified material in boxes of documents.

Prosecutors said the information contained in the charge sheet was sufficient and there was no need to disclose the evidence they are using at this stage in the trial. Cannon seemed to agree and said defense attorneys could put these arguments before the jury.

“Then why wouldn't it be a trial argument?” he asked prosecutors repeatedly during a two-hour hearing Friday afternoon.

However, he appeared to struggle with many of the defense attorneys' demands, asking both sides pointed questions about case precedent and evidence. He was not required to conduct a hearing and could have passed a judgment only on the basis of their written arguments.

Cannon, a relatively inexperienced judge nominated by Trump in late 2020, did not say when he would issue his ruling. The judge is still debating other key decisions in pretrial proceedings, which will prevent the case from getting closer to trial and has yet to set a firm trial date — leaving a big question mark over whether Trump will go to trial in Florida before 2024. Election.

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Trump focused heavily on the case before the hearings. But Friday's hearing put the co-defendants' cases on center stage and provided a window into the duo's potential defense: They were doing their jobs when they allegedly moved boxes and discussed deleted security footage, and were unaware of the ongoing federal investigation. .

Prosecutors allege that Nauta and de Oliveira conspired with the former president to obstruct the investigation and thwart authorities' efforts to recover government materials that Trump took with him as he left the White House. Prosecutors misled investigators in their statements and planned to delete security footage to prevent authorities from retrieving the boxes.

Nauta is also accused of moving dozens of boxes from a storage room at Trump's Florida home and private club at Mar-a-Lago to Trump's living quarters while investigators tried to locate them.

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Nauta, a Trump aide still traveling with him, and De Oliveira, a property manager at Mar-a-Lago, face eight and four counts, respectively, and have pleaded not guilty.

Trump faces 40 charges in the case, including 32 counts of allegedly violating a section of the Espionage Act for possessing 32 documents that prosecutors say contain sensitive government information. Nauta and De Oliveira were not charged with possession of the items.

Cannon's hearing on Friday focused on motions to dismiss the lawsuit filed by Nauta and De Oliveira. The motions assert that there is no evidence that Nauta or De Oliveira knew that the boxes contained classified material or that they were aware of the ongoing government investigation. Because of this, their lawyers argue that the facts set forth in the indictment do not support the government's allegations against them. They also argued that some of the charges leveled against them were unconstitutional and spurious.

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De Oliveira's attorney, John Irving, described the charges against his client as tantamount to charging a getaway driver with conspiracy to commit a crime, when the getaway driver was actually an Uber driver who had no idea what the occupants of his car were. done.

“You can't stop an investigation you know nothing about,” Irving said.

Prosecutors said the defendants only had to show evidence that they knew about the investigation — that they didn't know its specifics or what a subpoena demanded.

“We don't have to make these arguments now,” attorney Jay Pratt said.

Trump has filed more than a half-dozen motions to dismiss the case, with Nauta and De Oliveira tagging some of them. Cannon previously heard two of Trump's motions to dismiss the case, denying both.

Motions to dismiss are usually lengthy arguments that are rarely granted. Nauta's lawyers, Irving and Stanley Woodward, have asked Cannon to submit a bill of particulars to the government — a document that provides more details about the evidence underlying the charges in the indictment.

Prosecutors would find the charge sheet detailed and the bill of particulars unduly burdensome, forcing them to divulge their trial strategies.

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