Patel and Nauta’s agent was Bland Woodward Law, who, according to public records, was paid more than $120,000 from Trump’s Save America PAC. The firm’s top attorney, Stan Brand, said there was nothing wrong with PAC paying legal fees for witnesses in the investigation. But another attorney not involved in the case said it could encourage witnesses not to cooperate.
“There is nothing prohibiting third parties from paying attorneys’ fees so long as they are disclosed to the client. The attorney’s ethical obligation is to the client,” Bland said. “This is a storm in a teapot, another cheesy shot at these people because of who they work for.”
But former federal prosecutor Jim Walden said the payment arrangement raises concerns that reimbursement of attorneys’ fees will affect what witnesses say and do. said that if he has ethical concerns, he can ask the judge to at least question the client as to whether their interests are being reliably protected.
“Trump’s Political Action Committee seems to be paying for these witnesses’ silence, for them to take a fifth, or for favorable testimony,” Walden said. The situation should appear highly suspicious to the Department of Justice, and we have judicial mechanisms in place to ensure court oversight in the event of a dispute.”
Other Witnesses Defended by Brand Woodward as Counsel Trump’s PAC is paying longtime Trump adviser Dan Scavino and at least one personal aide to testify before a grand jury, according to people familiar with the matter. is.
“We do not comment on vendor payments. Everything the group spends is publicly reported in accordance with the law,” Trump spokesman Stephen Zhang said.
Chronology of Trump’s Marlago Papers
Steven Gillers, emeritus professor of legal ethics at NYU Law School, said such arrangements are common in the corporate world and should only be relevant in certain circumstances.
“The problem arises when the person paying the fee chooses an attorney and is interested in how that attorney represents the client,” Gillers said.
He told the House Select Committee investigating the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol that former Trump White House staffer Cassidy “she became much more supportive” after she changed lawyers. I quoted Hutchinson’s case.
Gillers said the Justice Department can ask a judge to remove an attorney if it has reason to believe the attorney is not acting in the best interest of the client.
Trump was willing to pay his PAC the bills of aides who remained loyal to him or worked for him. said a person familiar with the matter. The Republican National Committee has paid legal fees to Trump advisers in the past, including during an investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, and has paid more than $1.5 million in legal fees since Trump resigned. has been borne by
PAC is under federal investigation for fundraising tactics involving false claims that the election was stolen. Separately, federal investigators have issued a subpoena seeking details on the formation and operation of the PAC as part of a Justice Department investigation into Trump and his supporters’ efforts to overturn the outcome of the 2020 election. issued. Those subpoenas asked for a wide range of information about how PAC raised and used the funds, according to people familiar with the matter.
Trump’s motive in Mar-a-Lago case seen as ego, not money
Trump wants to leave a lot of money to the PAC, according to one of the people familiar with the matter. However, he has been cautious in using his funds and has frustrated his fellow Republicans.
PAC has spent $9.7 million in litigation costs since 2021, representing about 14% of its spending during that period, according to filings reviewed by The Washington Post. That includes legal bills to separately investigate Trump’s business in New York and his actions in Georgia after the 2020 election, according to people familiar with the matter.
In New York, for example, a firm headed by Philadelphia attorney Michael van der Veen has been guaranteed $25,000 a month by the president’s PAC for his work in New York lawsuits, according to The Post. according to a contract confirmed by According to filings, PAC will pay van der Veen’s company at least $369,000 in 2022, and since the last filing, PAC has charged his PAC at least $230,000, according to documents seen by The Post. I’m here.
Trump is ready to make more such payments. His PAC, which raises money primarily from small donors, had nearly $70 million on hand as of the latest application filed in late October.
Classified Mar-a-Lago documents held important secrets about Iran, China
It is not uncommon for the same attorney or law firm to represent multiple witnesses, As Brand Woodward does in its Mar-a-Lago survey. One of his clients, his Scavino, has been representing the company since before Trump left office.
Bland said there was little difference between the current situation and his past work representing George Stephanopoulos, a former adviser to President Bill Clinton. not PACs — When Stephanopoulos was summoned by a parliamentary committee, he paid part of his advocacy.
Brand said if the government were to stop Trump from reimbursing him for his legal work, it would be an unfair attempt to “coerce the witnesses to cooperate by cutting off their ability to defend themselves.” said it would be
The Justice Department is investigating Trump’s possession of hundreds of classified documents in Mar-a-Lago after he left office. Among them were 103 documents that remained in the estate after Trump and his legal team responded to grand jury subpoenas seeking the return of all such materials. .
Some of the documents recovered by the FBI during the court-approved investigation contained classified information about foreign nuclear capabilities, intelligence activities in China and Iran’s missile systems, The Washington Post reports.
The Justice Department is also investigating attempts by Trump and his allies to overturn a Biden presidential victory in 2020. Attorney General Merrick Garland last month announced Trump’s decision to run for president again in 2024. and Biden’s intent to seek re-election, appointed a special counsel to oversee both investigations.
Prosecutors involved in each investigation submitted multiple witnesses to a grand jury in federal court in Washington.On Friday, two former Trump White House attorneys, Pat Cipollone and Patrick Philbin testified before a grand jury on election-related matters, people familiar with the matter said. Three of his other Trump aides, including Scavino, testified to a grand jury on Thursday about the Mar-a-Lago dossier. The testimony of the three aides was first reported by The New York Times.
Patel exercised his Fifth Amendment right to self-incrimination as a reason not to answer questions when he was first brought before a grand jury last October, according to people familiar with the matter. However, after conferring with a federal judge, he was granted a limited use waiver and returned before a panel to answer questions in November.
Prosecutors continue to seek cooperation from Mr. Nauta, a close aide to Mr. Trump.
When Nauta was first questioned by the FBI, he denied any knowledge or knowledge of the classified Maralago documents, a person familiar with the matter said. But his story changed a lot when he was questioned a second time, these people said. After a grand jury subpoena was served and he demanded the return of documents marked classified, he told investigators that he moved the box at Trump’s direction.
Nauta is in a precarious legal position as it is unclear whether prosecutors will seek to indict him for false allegations or pressure Trump to cooperate.