The payment of legal expenses for crucial witnesses in the former president’s criminal case involving secret data by Donald Trump’s political action committee may present a conflict of interest, according to a former federal prosecutor.
Jim Walden was responding to news that Trump’s Save America PAC was providing legal counsel for two individuals involved in the investigation into whether the former president improperly handled top-secret materials found at his Mar-a-Lago resort in August and also made attempts to thwart the government’s attempt to recover the documents.
The Brand Woodward Law firm, which is now representing witnesses Kash Patel, a close adviser to Trump, and Walt Nauta, has reportedly received more than $120,000 from Trump’s PAC, according to The Washington Post.
Nauta, a Mar-a-Lago valet driver, could be a key witness in the Department of Justice’s inquiry. After receiving a government subpoena to produce the documents in May, Trump is accused of instructing Nauta to move the boxes into a storage area at his Florida resort.
Nauta is allegedly seen moving the boxes out of the storage room both before and after the DOJ issued the subpoena, according to security footage the FBI allegedly obtained.
According to Walden, who was speaking to The Washington Post, the fact that Trump’s PAC was paying Patel’s and Nauta’s legal fees might ultimately affect the testimony of the witnesses during the probe.
“It looks like the Trump political action committee is either paying for the silence of these witnesses, for them to take the Fifth, or for favorable testimony,” Walden said. “These circumstances should look very suspicious to the Justice Department, and there’s a judicial mechanism for them to get court oversight if there’s a conflict.”
According to Walden, the DOJ may ask a court to interrogate the witnesses about whether they genuinely believe that their interests are being safeguarded and whether any ethical issues exist over who is paying for the witnesses’ legal representation.
According to Stan Brand, the managing partner of Brand Woodward Law, there is nothing improper about Trump’s Save America PAC paying for witnesses’ legal expenses during the inquiry into the classified papers.
“There’s no bar against third parties paying for legal fees as long as it’s disclosed to the client. The ethical obligation of the lawyer is to the client,” Brand said. “This is a tempest in a teapot and another cheap shot at these people because of who they work for.”
The newspaper was informed by Steven Cheung, a Trump spokesperson, that the former president’s administration does not comment on vendor payments and that all expenditures made by the Save America PAC are “publicly reported and in accordance with the law.”
In relation to the secret information that the FBI took from Trump’s Florida property in August, Trump has always denied any wrongdoing.
The dubious assertion that the files were declassified before the former president left office in 2021 has been promoted by him, and he has also falsely compared how records were taken from the White House at the end of prior administrations.
The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) was in charge of maintaining and owning the presidential materials, which were taken out of the White House at the end of the Obama, Bush, and Clinton administrations and kept in a NARA facility with the purpose of being kept in libraries.
The prior presidents or their administrations did not personally handle any of the materials being temporarily housed at NARA facilities, nor were they classified or top secret.