‘Divided Loyalties’ May Afflict Lawyer in Mar-a-Lago Case, Prosecutors Say

The special counsel Jack Smith has requested a hearing to determine if a lawyer representing one of former President Donald J. Trump’s co-defendants, Walt Nauta, has “divided loyalties” by simultaneously working for three witnesses who could be called to testify at a trial in the case involving classified documents at Mar-a-Lago, according to a motion filed on Wednesday.

Prosecutors questioned whether Stanley Woodward Jr., a lawyer in Washington who has represented at least seven witnesses in the case, could effectively defend Mr. Nauta in compliance with conflict-of-interest rules while also representing Trump employees who might be called upon to take the stand against Mr. Nauta, the former president’s valet and personal aide.

In a motion filed to Judge Aileen M. Cannon, who is presiding in the case, Jay I. Bratt, a prosecutor under Mr. Smith, expressed particular concern about Mr. Woodward’s continued representation of Mr. Nauta after one of Mr. Woodward’s former clients, Yuscil Tavares, apparently began cooperating with investigators. Mr. Tavares is an information technology worker at Mar-a-Lago, Mr. Trump’s private club and residence in Florida.

“All three of these witnesses may be witnesses for the government at trial, raising the possibility that Mr. Woodward might be in the position of cross-examining past or current clients,” Mr. Bratt wrote in requesting the hearing before Judge Cannon in Federal District Court in Fort Pierce, Fla.

Mr. Nauta pleaded not guilty last month to federal charges that he conspired with Mr. Trump to obstruct investigators from retrieving a trove of classified materials that Mr. Trump took from the White House.

Mr. Tavares’s new lawyer has told the special counsel’s office that he intends to hold Mr. Woodward to the same standards of “confidentiality, loyalty and conflict-free representation” that were in effect when he was Mr. Woodward’s client. That might make it difficult for Mr. Woodward to continue to represent Mr. Nauta, the government argued.

Mr. Bratt suggested that the court might “procure independent counsel” to be present at the hearing “to advise Mr. Woodward’s clients regarding the potential conflicts.”

It is not clear when Judge Cannon, who was appointed by Mr. Trump, will rule on the motion.

Mr. Woodward declined to comment on the government’s request. But he told the special counsel’s office that he planned to respond to the allegations in the motion with one of his own, according to the government’s filing.

Prosecutors said they had informed Mr. Woodward in February and March, “orally and in writing,” that his simultaneous representation of Mr. Nauta and Mr. Tavares “raised a potential conflict of interest,” the motion said.

At the time, prosecutors also told Mr. Woodward they believed Mr. Tavares “had information that would incriminate Nauta,” according to the motion. Mr. Taveras appears to be the source of an account contained in an updated indictment filed in the case last week, accusing Mr. Nauta and Carlos De Oliveira, the property manager of Mar-a-Lago, of a plot to convince Mr. Taveras to delete a computer server containing surveillance footage from Mar-a-Lago at Mr. Trump’s request.

Prosecutors said in their motion that Mr. Woodward claimed “he did not have a reason to believe” that representing both men was a problem.

Mr. Woodward is a familiar figure in Washington legal circles, with a robust roster of clients, many with connections to Mr. Trump and his supporters on the right. He has often been paid by the former president’s political action committee to represent current and former aides to Mr. Trump.

Mr. Woodward has represented witnesses and defendants in both the classified-documents prosecution and another case that Mr. Smith has filed against Mr. Trump, accusing the former president of taking part in three conspiracies to overturn the 2020 election.

Among Mr. Woodward’s clients are Kash Patel, a former Defense Department official closely aligned to Mr. Trump who sought to exercise his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination while testifying in front of a grand jury in the documents inquiry. Prosecutors ultimately compelled Mr. Patel to answer questions by forcibly conferring immunity on him.

Mr. Woodward has also represented Dan Scavino, Mr. Trump’s former deputy chief of staff, in the election-interference investigation. He has been defending Peter Navarro, another aide to Mr. Trump, against contempt-of-Congress charges arising from his refusal to comply with a subpoena from the House select committee investigating the riots of Jan. 6, 2021.

But he has not made his personal political views public, and he is known for his pro bono work on behalf of low-income tenants facing eviction in Washington.

Glenn Thrush covers the Department of Justice. He joined The Times in 2017 after working for Politico, Newsday, Bloomberg News, The New York Daily News, The Birmingham Post-Herald and City Limits. More about Glenn Thrush

Alan Feuer covers extremism and political violence. He joined The Times in 1999. More about Alan Feuer

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