It was revealed in a court filing earlier this month that Special Counsel Jack Smith had been secretly continuing to make use of a grand jury empaneled in Washington D.C. in relation to the documents case charged against former President Donald Trump and two associates in South Florida.
Now that admission has been flipped against Smith by the attorney representing Trump associate Walt Nauta in a bid to potentially have witness testimony excluded from trial or the special counsel sanctioned by the court, according to the Daily Beast.
Though special counsels are generally afforded a little more leeway than regular federal prosecutors, federal court rules typically dictate that grand juries can only be empaneled to investigate and bring charges in the same venue where the alleged crimes are said to have occurred.
In a court filing last week, Nauta's attorney Stanley Woodward first addressed the issue of implications put forward by the special counsel of a potential conflict of interest between Nauta and an unindicted witness known as "Trump Employee 4," who was also represented by Woodward.
The attorney denied that any conflict of interest existed, but then cited the prior admission from Special Counsel Smith of a separate grand jury in D.C. as a reason to bar the inclusion of any potential testimony from the witness in future proceedings.
Woodward wrote, "Moreover, even were a conflict to arise from Trump Employee 4’s anticipated testimony, the Court should exercise its authority to preclude his testimony to avoid any conflict of interest insofar as the charges against Mr. Nauta that relate to Trump Employee 4 were brought only after, 'a grand jury in the District of Columbia continued to investigate further obstructive activity.'"
"Specifically, where, as here, a grand jury has returned an indictment against a defendant, neither that grand jury nor one in another district may be used for the purpose of garnering additional evidence to support the already-issued indictment, or to obtain pretrial discovery or engage in trial preparation," he continued. "Nor may grand jury proceedings be used, after issuance of an indictment, as a subterfuge to place pressure on a witness in order to obtain information and leads for use at trial."
Woodward went on to suggest court intervention in the matter and wrote, "The need to exercise supervisory power is substantial in this case, where the government has engaged in multiple improprieties including, ... convening a grand jury in a far-away district ostensibly to obtain evidence with respect to an indictment that was previously returned in the instant district."
He accused the special counsel of attempting to "diminish the Court’s authority over the proceedings in this case and to undermine attorney-client relationships without any basis specific to the facts of such representation."
"The exercise of this Court’s supervisory power is warranted to exclude Trump Employee 4’s testimony as a remedy for the improper use of out-of-district proceedings or, at the least, to allow discovery with regard to this matter," Woodward added. "Such relief would comport with measures taken in similar instances of perceived or potential grand jury abuse."
That motion filed by Woodward last week likely raised a few questions among those following along with the documents case, but at least some of those questions may have been answered by a Politico report about a new filing from Special Counsel Smith about "Trump Employee 4," who has been separately identified as Yuscil Taveras, who worked as the director of information technology at Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort.
Taveras, who previously testified to the D.C. grand jury that he had no knowledge of any alleged efforts to delete subpoenaed surveillance camera footage, has now reportedly flipped and retracted that prior testimony and instead has informed the D.C. grand jury with details of the alleged efforts to obstruct justice by erasing footage.
The filing also noted that Taveras is no longer represented by Woodward, and further asserted that the D.C. grand jury that both Woodward and District Judge Aileen Cannon had raised concerns about had formally concluded its work on August 17 -- conveniently the same day that Woodward filed the above-referenced motion.
"The Government anticipates calling Trump Employee 4 as a trial witness and expects that he will testify to conduct alleged in the superseding indictment regarding efforts to delete security footage," the special counsel's team wrote. "Trump Employee 4 will very likely face cross-examination about his prior inconsistent statements in his grand jury testimony, which occurred while Mr. Woodward represented him, and which he disavowed immediately after obtaining new counsel."