A key witness against Donald Trump in the classified documents case has agreed to testify against the former president.
Yuscil Taveras, a resort IT employee who works at Mar-a-Lago, initially denied to the team of Special Counsel Jack Smith that there had ever been any discussions regarding security footage that prosecutors had subpoenaed as part of the investigation. But as soon as Taveras received a new public defender in July, he promptly changed his story and made a statement accusing Trump and his two co-defendants of trying to have the video removed.
According to CNN on Wednesday, Taveras has now consented to testify against Trump, Walt Nauta, and Carlos De Oliveira in exchange for not being charged.
“Trump was charged in Florida with keeping national defense secrets, making false statements, and conspiracy to obstruct justice, among other things, for hoarding classified materials at Mar-a-Lago. His body man Nauta and a Mar-a-Lago employee De Oliveira have also been charged. All three men are accused of trying to destroy evidence, including attempting to delete security footage off a server,” the New Republic reported.
“Taveras provided his original testimony when he was represented by Trump-appointed lawyer Stanley Woodward, who also represents Nauta. Prosecutors raised concerns in July that Woodward representing a defendant and a witness could create a conflict of interest. The chief judge presiding over Trump’s other federal indictment case in Washington offered to assign a federal public defender to Taveras, and Taveras accepted,” the outlet added.
“Immediately after receiving new counsel, Trump Employee 4 retracted his prior false testimony and provided information that implicated Nauta, De Oliveira, and Trump in efforts to delete security camera footage,” an August filing from Smith said. Taveras was not named in the filing, but he was later identified through media reports.
In the Washington, DC, case — which is separate from the classified documents case in Florida — the special counsel complained in a court filing on Tuesday that Trump’s statements in his alleged election interference case were tainting a potential jury pool.
Smith wrote in his filing in a DC court that Trump’s “daily extrajudicial statements could threaten to prejudice the jury pool” in his case.
“The allegation arose in a court fight that remains largely under seal, so additional details are not public. The brief reference to Trump’s statements affecting the jury pool at the Washington, DC, courthouse came in a public filing in the federal criminal case,” CNN reported.
The outlet added: “Smith’s office has been sparring with Trump’s team over how much of the underlying sealed dispute should be made public. Prosecutors tried earlier Tuesday to file court documents partially under seal – and partially on the public docket. But Trump’s team argued that the filings should not be posted to the court’s public docket until they have 14 days to respond – the amount of time set out by default court rules.”
Smith’s team fired back: “Such a requirement would grind litigation in this case to a halt, which is particularly infeasible given the pressing matters before the Court — including the defendant’s daily extrajudicial statements that threaten to prejudice the jury pool in this case, as described in the Government’s motion.
U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan has directed both parties to submit further legal briefs regarding the posting of the underlying Smith submission on the docket. The deadline for the Trump brief is September 11, and prosecutors are required to file a reply brief by September 13, CNN noted.
Previously, Chutkan ordered the trial to begin on March 4, 2024, after Trump’s team sought to extend the date past next year’s presidential election and into 2026.
A growing number of legal experts on the left and right are coming to Trump’s defense after Smith filed felony charges against the former president over alleged actions stemming from the Capitol riot.
In an interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity, Georgetown Law School professor Jonathan Turley suggested that the Biden administration’s ongoing persecution of Trump is wearing thin with a sizeable portion of the American public that increasingly sees the cases as entirely political.
“This is a free speech-killing indictment. There’s no way around it. I write a great deal in academia in the free-speech area, and I have rarely seen a more chilling filing by the Department of Justice,” Turley said.
“The question that people have to ask themselves is, when is the price too high? People are enraged, but what is the price too high to bag Donald Trump? This indictment is a prohibitive cost. Meaning what they are attempting to do is criminalize what they consider to be disinformation,” he added.
“This is a speaking indictment but it doesn’t say very much. It just says that we think Trump is lying and that he didn’t believe this. I can’t tell you how faciously ridiculous this claim is. It starts by saying, of course, you can say false things in the campaign, but then says that Trump knew they were false. Is that the test going forward in terms of criminalizing political speech?” Turley, a noted liberal, continued.
“Smith is just not only going to have to just bulldoze through the First Amendment, he’s going to have to bulldoze through a line of cases by the Supreme Court,” he said.