DOJ raises conflict of interest concerns with Trump aide’s legal representation

August 17, 2023

Special Counsel Jack Smith has raised concerns that Carlos De Oliveira, co-defendant in former President Trump’s classified documents case, may not be getting adequate legal representation. 

De Oliveira is the property manager at Trump’s Florida country club residence, Mar-a-Lago, the site of an August, 2022 FBI raid that uncovered at least 100 classified documents Trump had possessed post-Presidency. 

This past Tuesday De Oliveira pleaded not guilty to four criminal counts in the case. In a superseding indictment, he was accused of assisting Trump in an effort to delete Mar-a-Lago surveillance video that had been subpoenaed by federal authorities.

Altogether between initial and superseding indictments Trump has pleaded not guilty to 40 criminal counts in the case, including 31 counts for willful retention of national defense secrets in violation of the Espionage Act as well as obstruction and other charges. 

De Oliveira’s attorney is John Irving, whom the Department of Justice noted in a court filing Wednesday night is also representing three other people whom prosecutors may seek to call as witnesses at trial. 

“Mr. Irving’s representation of the three potential witnesses raises the possibility that he might be in the position of cross-examining current clients,” the DOJ wrote. 

Prosecutors said at least one of Irving’s clients “has information demonstrating the falsity of statements De Oliveira has made to the government” as well as “information about De Oliveira’s loyalty to Trump and about De Oliveira’s involvement in the replacement of a lock—at the direction of Trump—on a closet inside Trump’s residence at Mar-a-Lago” on the day that the property manager and another Trump aide and co-defendant, Walt Nauta, “moved boxes” in and out of a storage room on the property.

DOJ further asserted that even if De Oliveira wants to waive any conflicts, “the Court should conduct an inquiry to determine whether the waiver is knowing and voluntary, and the Court should then determine whether to accept De Oliveira’s waiver.”

It’s the second time federal prosecutors have raised conflict-of-interest concerns related to a Trump co-defendant in the case. On August 2, the DOJ disclosed that Nauta attorney Stanley Woodward has represented “at least seven other individuals who have been questioned in connection with the investigation,” including some who have testified about Nauta.

In both instances, prosecutors have called for a so-called “Garcia hearing”—a legal proceeding that ensures a defendant, who is one of two or more defendants represented by the same attorney, understands the risk of a conflict of interest.

Irving did not immediately respond to a reporter’s request for comment. 

Meanwhile, the U.S. District Judge in the case, Aileen Cannon, has canceled an August 25 hearing on a protective order for classified evidence, saying the proceeding will take place under seal at a different time. She also ave De OliveIra until August 22 to submit any briefings he wants to offer on the proposed protective order, which will set the rules for how classified evidence is handled in discovery.

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