A witness in the criminal case against Donald Trump over the hoarding of classified documents retracted a “prior false testimony” after switching lawyers last month and provided new information that implicated the former president, the Justice Department has said.
The statements from the witness, a Trump staffer identified in court papers as the director of information technology at Mar-a-Lago, were presented to prosecutors weeks before Special Counsel Jack Smith secured an updated indictment accusing Trump and two others in a plot to delete surveillance video at the Florida property.
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Prosecutors said in a court filing on Tuesday that the witness told a grand jury in Washington in March that he could not recall any conversations about the security footage.
But in July, after being warned by prosecutors that he was a target of the investigation and after being advised that his lawyer might have a conflict of interest because he represented others in the probe, the witness received a new lawyer from the federal defender’s office and provided the Justice Department with information that helped form the basis of the revised indictment against Trump, his valet Walt Nauta and a third defendant, Carlos De Oliveira, the court filing says.
Prosecutors described the witness interaction in a filing that seeks a hearing in Florida about potential conflicts of interest involving the defence lawyer, Stanley Woodward, who also represents Nauta.
“The target letter to Trump Employee 4 crystallized a conflict of interest arising from Mr Woodward’s concurrent representation of Trump Employee 4 and Nauta,” prosecutors wrote.
They added: “Advising Trump Employee 4 to correct his sworn testimony would result in testimony incriminating Mr Woodward’s other client, Nauta; but permitting Trump Employee 4’s false testimony to stand uncorrected would leave Trump Employee 4 exposed to criminal charges for perjury.”
In the filing, the Justice Department also sought to explain its use of grand juries in Washington and Florida, where charges were ultimately filed.
United States District Judge Aileen Cannon, a Florida judge presiding over the case, had earlier asked about the legal propriety of using grand juries in both districts.
Prosecutors said they continued using the Washington grand jury even after charges were filed in Florida for the express purpose of investigating potential false statements by witnesses in Washington. The Washington grand jury completed its term last week, they said.
A trial has been set for May 20, 2024, in the classified documents case. Trump has pleaded not guilty and denied any wrongdoing.
Trump is facing another prosecution by Smith over efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, as well as a criminal case in Georgia over attempts to subvert that state’s vote and another in New York in connection with hush money payments to a porn actor.