Monday, September 25, 2023

By Andrew Goudsward

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A key witness in the case accusing former U.S. President Donald Trump of mishandling classified documents after leaving office has entered into a deal with prosecutors to provide testimony, his former attorney said in a Wednesday court filing.

The deal was reached after U.S. Special Counsel Jack Smith’s office threatened to prosecute the witness, who is the head of information technology at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Florida resort, for lying to a grand jury, the attorney, Stanley Woodward, said in the filing.

Woodward currently represents Walt Nauta, one of the two Trump employees also charged in the documents case, in addition to having previously represented the IT head, who is not named in Wednesday’s filing.

Prosecutors have said the employee is likely to testify at trial, posing a potential conflict of interest for Woodward, who will face the prospect of a former client testifying against a current client.

Woodward has not opposed the request for U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon, who is presiding over the case, to hold a hearing on the issue. But he suggested in Wednesday’s filing that prosecutors’ handling of the IT manager’s testimony was improper.

The case is one of four criminal prosecutions of Trump, who leads the field seeking the Republican nomination to challenge Democratic President Joe Biden in the 2024 election.

Prosecutors previously said that the witness, who has been identified by media outlets Politico and CNN as Yuscil Taveras, had information about efforts by Trump’s personal aide Nauta and others to obstruct the classified documents investigation.

Taveras’ current attorney had no immediate comment.

Prosecutors have charged Trump, Nauta and a third Mar-a-Lago employee, Carlos De Oliveira, with trying to thwart government efforts to retrieve sensitive documents taken to the Florida resort after Trump left office. All three have pleaded not guilty.

A spokesperson for Smith’s office declined to comment. Woodward declined to comment.

Prosecutors said in an August court filing that the witness initially denied any knowledge of obstruction. After receiving a letter from the special counsel’s office threatening him with prosecution, he dropped Woodward as his attorney and then detailed alleged efforts to delete security camera footage at Mar-a-Lago, they said.

Woodward rejected prosecutors’ account in Wednesday’s filing, saying the IT employee provided new testimony to the grand jury only after being offered a non-prosecution deal, which was reached after he was no longer representing the employee.

(Reporting by Andrew Goudsward; Editing by Scott Malone and Andrea Ricci)

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