Stanley Woodward Tests Judge Aileen Cannon’s Patience

Just days into Pro Hac Vice admittance before Judge Aileen Cannon, Walt Nauta’s lawyer, Stanley Woodward, is testing (as in, probing) her patience, to see how much she will play along with obvious attempts to stall this case.

He and the government have submitted dueling filings about whether the CIPA conference scheduled for Friday should be postponed to some uncertain time.

Before I get into what they say, remember that Woodward is being paid by Trump’s PAC, which is also under investigation for raising money promising one thing and then spending it on other things — such as paying for Woodward’s legal fees.

Remember, too, that after months of claiming that DOJ had screwed up by not immunizing Walt Nauta — a strategy that got his client charged in an Espionage Act indictment (in some legal circles, a sign of a legal strategy that has backfired, potentially catastrophically), Woodward then adopted a new strategy: belatedly accusing Jay Bratt of bullying him because Bratt tried to prevent him from setting his client up to be charged.

Finally, consider that we’ve already seen stories suggesting that Trump plans to stall this out past November 4, 2024, so he can pardon both of them.

The pace of hiring an attorney for Nauta has been slow — as has been the speed with which Trump is beefing up his own criminal defense team. Nauta continues to work for Trump’s organization and Trump’s political committee is financing his employee’s legal representation. Inside the former president’s orbit, top aides are prepping for a protracted and litigious fight with prosecutors that draws out the entire legal process through the 2024 general election that Trump hopes to win for a return to the White House.

“If you ask three different people in Trump world what’s going on, you’ll get five different answers,” said the source familiar with discussions. “But the reality is there’s no rush to do this. This seems to be their posture: ‘The case is probably going to happen after the election anyway [on Nov. 5, 2024]. So what’s the rush?’”

And before I present Woodward’s seven (!!!) excuses for not being able to make Friday’s hearing, consider that according to the government, Woodward hasn’t even submitted his SF-86 form required before he can get clearance.

Nauta’s second justification for a continuance is a claim that Mr. Woodward cannot “meaningfully” participate in a discussion about classified discovery or a CIPA discovery schedule at a Section 2 conference until obtaining a security clearance. Motion at 3. But he cites no case holding that a Section 2 conference is contingent on counsel having clearances, which is unsurprising since such a requirement would be inconsistent with Section 2’s language that “[a]t any time after the filing of the indictment or information, any party may move for a pretrial conference to consider matters relating to classified information that may arise in connection with the prosecution.” 18 U.S.C. App.3 § 2. Perhaps more to the point, as of this writing, Mr. Woodward has yet to complete his Form SF-86, which is necessary for him to receive both an interim clearance and final adjudication, despite having been put in contact with the Litigation Security Group on June 12, some three-and-a-half weeks ago.

With all that laid out, ready for Woodward’s seven complaints?

1) First, that DOJ charged his client in Trump country rather than in DC.

With little notice to Defendant Nauta, the operative indictment in this matter was returned in this District and only recently, on Wednesday, July 5, 2023, did Defendant Nauta retain local counsel, Sasha Dadan.

2) Then, that he opposed having a CIPA conference at all (a claim the government says is not true).

Although government counsel asked whether Mr. Nauta’s longtime counsel opposed such a hearing – we did – and provided an electronic courtesy copy of the same, the government did not request any dates when defense counsel would be unavailable for such a conference.

3) Then, that Nauta had delayed so long in hiring a Florida lawyer that poor Stan Woodward had no way to object on his own.

At that time, Mr. Nauta, through counsel was not receiving electronic notices through the Court’s CM/ECF filing system, the government did not advise counsel that the pretrial CIPA conference had been scheduled, and even when counsel did learn of the conference, Mr. Nauta had no ability to formally move the Court for relief based upon his counsel’s unavailability. Rather, it was not until Wednesday, July 5, 2023, that Mr. Nauta retained local counsel, Sasha Dadan, and Thursday, July 6, 2023, that Chief Magistrate Judge Torres entered an Order permitting Mr. Nauta, through counsel to file electronically with the Court.

4) Then, that Woodward has a trial for Freddie Klein this week (the government says it — this prosecution team — did not know that — it seems that Woodward is relying on prosecutors on a 1,000 defendant crime scene investigation to track Woodward’s other clients).

As the government has long been aware, Mr. Nauta’s longtime counsel, Mr. Woodward, is scheduled to begin a Bench Trial in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia on July 10, 2023.

5) Woodward then says that even though he’s not required to attend, Nauta should be able to demand that he attend.

Presumably, the government will argue that Mr. Woodward’s appearance is unnecessary. But see Flanagan v. United States, 465 U.S. 259, 268 (1984) (like the Sixth Amendment right to self-representation, the right to counsel of choice, “reflects constitutional protection of the defendant’s free choice independent of concern for the objective fairness of the proceeding”). And defense counsel is aware of the Court’s admonishment that, “[l]ocal counsel must be ready to adequately represent [Mr. Nauta] at any time.” Paperless Order (July 7, 2023).2 However, as the government notes in its application for the hearing, a pretrial CIPA conference permits the Court to, “consider matters related to classified information that may arise in connection with the prosecution.” Motion at 6 (June 23, 2023) (ECF No. 32) (quoting 18 U.S.C. App. III § 2).

6) Woodward doesn’t see the point of using CIPA in a case charging 31 of the most sensitive documents ever charged in an Espionage Act case.

To that end, the government only broadly describes the basis for its request for a pretrial CIPA conference: “to establish a discovery and motion schedule relating to any classified information.” Motion at 19 (June 23, 2023) (ECF No. 32). Yet, defense counsel cannot meaningfully opine on, “a discovery and motion schedule relating to any classified information,” before their provisional security clearances, let alone complete clearances, have been approved.

7) Even though his brand spanking new co-counsel (who mostly does family law kinds of things but also dog bites) is obligated under local rules to hit the ground running, she’s not ready to hit the ground running.

Nor is it feasible to expect Mr. Nauta’s local counsel to appear at a pretrial CIPA conference and to agree upon, “a discovery and motion schedule relating to any classified information,” barely a week after she has been retained by Mr. Nauta.

2 Mr. Nauta respects the Order of the Court and submits that it was not unreasonable for him to retain local counsel and thereafter request this Court accommodate the unavailability of his longtime counsel, Mr. Woodward insofar as Defense counsel would note that Local Rule 4 of the Rules Governing the Admission, Practice, Peer Review, and Discipline of Attorneys for the United States District Court of the Southern District of Florida, which pertains to the admission of out-of-state attorneys pro hac vice does not indicate that the sponsoring attorney be required to, “be ready to adequately represent the defendant at any time.”

Tune in in January, when Presidential candidate Donald Trump says he needs to delay his trial because he has primaries to run in. It won’t be his fault that the lawyer his PAC is paying invented frivolous cause for day, after all.

As I said, Woodward is testing Judge Cannon’s patience. And why wouldn’t he? If she conducts herself like she did last summer, he’ll be able to buy Trump all the time in the world.

60 replies
  1. Robot-seventeen says:

    Yep. Certainly the beginning of a long line of these and I have no doubt Cannon will bend over backwards to accommodate them. Of course, defendants have every right to be prudent in the steps they take going forward and it’s most likely their only defense. We’ll see – maybe she’ll take them to heel but my bet would be on her providing every deference she can justify.

    • Stephen Calhoun says:

      A self-pardon (or pardon,) as the goal after delay seems both trumpian and not much to bet on, even if most of the GOP primary candidates haven’t ruled their own pardon power out of the equation.

      Nauta is in better shape then the FPOTUS at least in the sense that he, presumably, doesn’t have a world of J6 hurt headed his way.

      Alas delays also delay learning about what is the defense’s trial strategy in the espionage case.

  2. Bugboy321 says:

    So, being this is a court with a so-called “Rocket Docket”, what’s the real world penalty (and for whom) if the timeline required by being a “Rocket Docket” is missed?

    I hope to all H-E-Double Hockey Sticks it’s not mistrial…

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      I assume that’s something Trump wants to know, too. Penalties usually start low, but escalate if the conduct persists or gets worse.

    • bmaz says:

      It is not mistrial. It’s either an order to begin trial or grant the continuance. But for this hearing, there is a co-counsel.

      • Rugger_9 says:

        It’s more useful for reading tea leaves. I did not see where Woodward proposed a new date, but perhaps I missed it. I suspect that given Cannon’s inexperience in these matters (did she handle anything like this as AUSA?) she’ll rule for a delay on the grounds of figuring it out. We saw this with the special master fiasco where she punted to figure out her duties.

        It will still look (and quack) like the duck of ownership controlled by Defendant-1.

        On the topic of the diversion of PAC funds, at what point does fraud become indictable? It’s not like the fundraising appeals clearly state the money will pay for criminal defense lawyers. While I fully expect that the claim will be defending the candidate’s viability, I also remember candidates getting in hot water for far less.

        • bmaz says:

          Don’t presume. As I have said before, you take your federal judges as you find them. Trump team really wants a new date “after” the next election. That is never happening. Relax for a bit.

  3. Unabogie says:

    OT, but the alleged “climber” Fani Willis appears to be heading towards charges for Trump.

    The selection of two Fulton County grand juries will be made Tuesday, with one of the panels expected to decide whether to hand up an indictment for alleged criminal interference in the 2020 presidential election.

    One set of jurors is likely to be asked to bring formal charges against former President Donald Trump and other well-known political and legal figures. In a letter to county officials almost two months ago, District Attorney Fani Willis indicated the indictment could be obtained at some point between July 31 and Aug. 18.

  4. PeteT0323 says:

    Well, I guess we will know how Judge Cannon is gonna play (this) before this Friday 14 Jul 2023.

  5. earlofhuntingdon says:

    1) So, Woodward was sitting on his ass waiting for Danda to be hired – a process he and other Trump lawyers controlled – before he started preparing Nauta’s defense?

    Being that slow would be cause for Nauta to replace him, not that he needs a reason. But he seems unwilling to entertain the idea. He must assume, unlike Ms. Cassidy, that any representation that Trump pays for and de facto controls, must be better than anything a federal public defender could provide. An assumption that probably wouldn’t carry enough water to fill a teacup. Or is it that he couldn’t imagine being unemployed by a guy as loyal as Donald Trump?

  6. earlofhuntingdon says:

    2) and 4) Woodward has to be asked to tell prosecutors when he has scheduling conflicts? Guffaw. Woodward seems bent on redefining zealous advocacy.

    • bmaz says:

      Welp, I am no Stan Woodward I guess, but when I had a conflict on a pre-trial hearing, one of my partners would cover. Or, in this case, the local co-counsel and better equipped Danda. This motion is dubious.

  7. earlofhuntingdon says:

    5) Woodward really doesn’t want Nauta to say anything in court he doesn’t approve of. That’s not how it’s supposed to work.

  8. earlofhuntingdon says:

    6) That Woodward claims to know so little about CIPA should make Nauta wonder why he’s employing him. It seems obvious what Trump’s PAC is paying for.

    7) Not knowing jack shit about CIPA and other aspects of this case should make Nauta wonder why Trump’s lawyers were so happy to have Danda on his team.

    Hilarious that Woodward claims that Local Rule 4 does not require, “that the sponsoring attorney be required to, ‘be ready to adequately represent the defendant at any time.'” Never mind the rules that apply to Danda because she chose to take the case. Woodward is arguing, in effect, that just because a fire fighter volunteers to fight a fire, s/he shouldn’t be required to know how to fight it.

    Yes, let’s see how willing Judge Cannon is to still engage in Mr. Trump’s flights of fancy.

  9. Steve_10JUL2023_1810h says:

    No surprise. Delay is all they’ve got.

    [Welcome to emptywheel. Please choose and use a unique username with a minimum of 8 letters. We are moving to a new minimum standard to support community security. Because your username is far too short it will be temporarily changed to match the date/time of your first known comment until you have a new compliant username. Thanks. /~Rayne]

  10. Violater says:

    This site is excellent. Love that the original posts are usually incisive and intelligent but really enjoy the people that write in. Win win. My question though is I think Jack Smith is very good but I am wondering what the community thinks he is going to do? AC is a bad actor and a few reasonable rulings mean nothing or Nauta (sorry). But after reading the above and even with what appears to a non-lawyer as a slam dunk why do you all think he is letting this charade go on and more importantly what do you think he might have up his sleeve.

    • Peterr says:

      Years of experience trying heads of state and other high government officials.

      Putting a local family law attorney and an out-of-town political hack of a lawyer up against Jack Smith is . . . how to put this kindly? . . . a novel defense strategy. My prediction: it will not end well for the defense.

      • Violater says:

        Thanks PETERR. I agree with you. My concern is this: So Friday comes and we see AC do what I fear she will. Start letting the so called Rocket Docket turn into a glider. Does Jack then have the ability to appeal? to move case? I just think that Trump engaged in such egregious acts that he should be on the way to the Julius and Ethel Rosenberg Thruway instead of jerking us around. I also would bet my house that there is no way he will come close to winning anything so the idea that Nauta and anyone who thinks they will be pardoned is wrong.

        • bmaz says:

          How many cases that Cannon has handled constitute your “fear” based upon? Where do you come up with this fear? The one civil one? What other cases do you have knowledge of, especially ones that are different from any other GOP appointed judge?

          “I just think that Trump engaged in such egregious acts that he should be on the way to the Julius and Ethel Rosenberg Thruway”.

          What in the living hell? So you want him and them executed at Sing Sing? What is wrong with you? I have spent decades feeling spanked by judges, but would never in my life think to look at it as you do. Maybe try to find some perspective.

          And, by the way, please do not suggest execution here again.

        • Violater says:

          Whoa. I was trying to engage in some respectful inquiry regarding AC and her (as far as Trump and DOJ) seeming willingness to be as helpful to Trump as possible and as unhelpful to DOJ. Period. Stop. Trump scares me and while my J and E Thruway bothered you it was a reference to the espionage I fear he has committed and worse (I would not be surprised) if he tried to do something horrible with the TS/SCI documents that were found in his possession. If he did (and you don’t know that he didn’t) then hell yes I wish him the worst. I love the site. I am not sure why you thought it important to be so derogatory in your answer to a new fan of Emptywheel and it participants.

        • RitaRita says:

          A person new to a community learns the norms either by violating them and facing criticism or by observing for awhile to find out the norms.

          This group generally has a high degree of respect for the rule of law and some are practitioners.

        • bmaz says:

          No “Violater” your comment was garbage. It was absolutely not “respectful inquiry”. Don’t do that here. Thank you for being a new fan, but don’t be counterproductive. By the way, you are not that “new” here, I remember you engaging in music posts previously. Don’t gaslight us.

  11. montysep says:

    Also Woodward’s motion footnote 1…

    …I’m not actually sure, at the moment, that the other Trial that I claim causes the conflict I describe will even be in session on the day of the CIPA hearing… But even if it isn’t I can’t make the CIPA hearing… Last minute travel would be a burden…

    • boatgeek says:

      If only there was a means of traveling quickly from one place to another. Perhaps a flying machine, that could move at several hundred miles an hour? Why, that would resolve all of Woodward’s problems. Too bad nothing like that exists.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Woodward volunteered to represent a client a thousand miles outside his normal practice area, involving laws he knows little about. He volunteered for the extra burdens of travel, legal prep, etc., all of which is entirely predictable, as is the burden on his schedule and other cases. This is legal practice 101.

      If Woodward finds that volunteering for this case is too great a burden, he should drop it. Or ask for a bigger retainer from his client’s patron, so that he can drop or reassign other cases and do the extra substantive and procedural homework he volunteered for. Shit or get off the pot.

      • bmaz says:

        Yeah, that is somewhat a synopsis generally of a pro hac vice application. Can you actually cover, or can the local counsel? This is such unmitigated garbage from Woodward.

        • vinniegambone says:

          Yes, couldn’t the PAC at least bankroll an attorney capable of presenting mitigated garbage ?

        • Rugger_9 says:

          What if the sole purpose for Woodward’s presence on the defense team was actually to provide justifications for delay? For example, the long delay to getting the SF-86 form done seems to point to that as a possibility.

          Let’s see if there is another change (and delay to get up to speed…).

  12. P’villain says:

    IAAL, but never spent a minute practicing criminal law. In my civil experience, judges will show a fair amount of tolerance to dilatory lawyering tactics, to keep a clean trial record. The judges keep a running tally in their heads, though, and eventually they hit their limit and lower the boom, dramatically. At that point, the dilatory party hasn’t a leg to stand on.

  13. sohelpmedog says:

    Asking for adjournments is quite common. I suspect she will give a short adjournment, which is not unusual. Even assuming that she is inclined to treat trump favorably, I think it’s a mistake to think that every time she might grant one of his requests, this spells doom for the prosecution. Hard to say if she won’t take this case as an opportunity to redeem herself from her horrendous reasoning the last time around. I am not a fan of hers by any means, but an idiot she is not. And I don’t think she needs trump anymore.

    • bmaz says:

      It is not just an “adjournment”, it is a request for continuance based on complete bullshit.

      • sohelpmedog says:

        Thanks for the clarification. So I hope Cannon will see through the bullshit and rule accordingly.

        • bmaz says:

          I don’t know, but we shall see. Cannon is not stupid, and she is very much not the worst federal judge out there. But where she really goes here…I do not know. So far, in this single particular case, she has done fine. I hope that continues.

  14. paulka123 says:

    So, Trump’s PAC is paying for Nauta’s legal defense. Sitting in Nauta’s position, either he accepts this assistance with the implied assurance that he will be pardoned if he is found guilty and Trump is elected. Nauta’s actions, throughout the trial would be prioritized Trump 1st, Nauta 2nd.

    His alternative choice would be to find independent council, either public defender or his own attorney who, it would seem would advise him significantly differently than Woodward, et al, being this theoretical lawyer would hold Nauta’s interest paramount. That would likely be to plea and hope for no jail time.

    This whole thing strikes me as an injustice. Yes, to an extent Nauta has freedom of choice, but when the codefendant has the power to pardon, that puts Nauta in a very difficult position. If I were him, I would not be banking that either Trump or a fellow republican is going to win in 2024. And if they don’t, he is looking at several years in prison.

  15. Tracy Lynn says:

    “And if they don’t, he is looking at several years in prison.”

    And even if they do, they won’t pardon him — so he is essentially hosed.

  16. vinniegambone says:

    Deference to defense lawyers scheldule is one thing, but please don’t tell me defendant’s presidential campaign schedule will ever be allowed to delay any proceedings. Please.

    I like the idea of his campaign having to scheldule his appearances around his criminal trials schedules. Him running from court room to a rally ? Will he actually have to be present in court ? This stuff is getting a bit phantasmogorphic isnt ?

    When is the GOP National Convention anyway ?
    Where might the trials be at that point ?
    Can he be forbidden to speak on campaign trail about the evidence being admitted against him as the trials and the campaign unfold during what is looking more and more will happening simultaneously along the same timeline ?
    Seems there is a chance here the delay strategies can backfire on him, no ?
    Seriously, frikn guy is planning on running for president while he is on trial for multiple offenses in multiple courts ?
    Really ?
    Vote for me so I can pardon myself. What a platform.
    PARDON TRUMP bumper stickers and tee shirts are next.

    Both parties will be hawking them.

    I love it.

  17. Thomas Paine says:

    Larry Sabato and the Professors at Electoral have both agreed that Biden has likely already booked 270 EV’s in 2024, and that there are likely only FOUR swing states this time around, Nevada, Arizona, Georgia and Wisconsin. If Biden wins just ONE of these, he serves another term. Someone should explain to Nauta that the possibility of Trump being POTUS again or a pardon is in the single digits. His best bet is to plead and ask for leniency for his bad judgement. Someone should show Mr. Nauta, Larry Sabato’s color-coded map.

    • Bears7485 says:

      There’s still plenty of time for ratfucking foreign and domestic actors to fiddle-play the rubes and their penchant for blaming the President for everything by cutting oil production, ginning up even more qcumber conspiracy theories, and suppressing the vote.

      So many, including myself, underestimated Trump in ’16. It’s going to take all of the efforts of ’18 & ’20 plus some to keep the Presidency and Senate in sane hands.

  18. hollywood says:

    Speaking of tests, Trump has now requested a lengthy delay of the docs trial. How is your spine Judge Cannon?

    • montysep says:

      Unfasten your seatbelt Violater.

      The latest filling asks Cannon for a continuance of the case to a trial date to be determined later.

      Based on:

      – Citing local precedent US vs Noriega approving Defendants need for more time to prepare in a case with significant classified material.

      – Voluminous discovery including inability to utilize third party contractor reviewers due to classification.

      – Actual timelines of recent CIPA cases

      – Multiple issues of first impression in the court that Defendants expect will go in their favor and bring an early end to the case.
      – Expectation there will be delays based on questions regarding constitutional & statutory challenges re the authority of the special counsel to maintain this action
      – Expected challenges based on Intersection between Presidential Records Act and criminal statutes at issue.
      – Expected challenges based on appropriate classification status of documents and their impact on national security

      – Inability to select an impartial jury during an election

      – Security clearance process pace

      – Brady material to be requested soon and down the road.

      – Campaigning for presidency and being an Assistant under those circumstances makes preparation challenging.

      – Previously scheduled trials and other matters for Trump and his counsel

      • bmaz says:

        And your point is? There are none of the problems that there were with a prosecution of Noriega that involved international acts.

        • Peterr says:

          CIPA issues create problems when the classified information is central to how the case was developed — secret satellites noted suspicious activities, undercover spies handed over information, etc. Lawyers for the DOJ need to be able to prove chain of custody for recordings, images. and documents, but if some of that chain is highly classified, they have to work with DOD and with the Court (via CIPA) to figure out what can be declassified, what can be substituted (summaries vs actual documents), or what can be stipulated to.

          In this case, and unlike the Noriega case or most other cases you could cite, the classified materials have nothing to do with the way the DOJ developed its case. They are simply the things that were stolen and/or illegally retained by Donald Trump after his presidency ended, and the things about which Trump lied to investigators, hid from NARA/DOJ, and otherwise acted to obstruct justice. They have nothing to do with how the DOJ investigated the alleged behavior, nothing to do with how they developed their case, and nothing to do with how the defense might mount their arguments.

          If this were a case involving a mid-level former govt staffer, CIPA would be a minor inconvenience. The contents of the material — which country’s military was being discussed, which weapons systems were being evaluated, which human intelligence assets had provided classified information — would have no reason to be revealed in court. All that matters is that the material was National Defense Information and that the person who had it, hid it, and tried to keep it had no reason to do any of those things.

        • bmaz says:

          This process can be, and should be, streamlined and expedited. And it can be easily. And I did not cite Noriega, some other person did, I simply refuted the comparison.

        • Konny_2022 says:

          “And I did not cite Noriega, some other person did, I simply refuted the comparison.”

          I agree to the refutation. The “some other person” was counsel for defendants (para. 10 of the filing). BTW, who is Stephen Weiss? Named as author in the metadata of the ESF No. 60.

        • Peterr says:

          Sorry for the misplaced “you.” I didn’t mean to say that you were doing this, but “anyone”.

  19. bawiggans says:

    Trump’s valet, Walt Nauta, is a factotum who may not quite understand that he is the hat raised on the stick to draw enemy fire. He is clearly so far out of his depth that he can only look to the people who are manipulating him for a way out of the trouble he is in. Besides, he is likely overawed by the fact that he is in frequent, close proximity to a former POTUS. It is probable that he even interprets his careful handling by all those powerful people as respect for himself.

    He has been fitted with ill-suited lawyers who are nonetheless perfect for launching no-cost-to-Trump’s-interests probes to gauge to what degree Cannon may accommodate various gambits for delay or hindrance of the prosecution. If she reacts sympathetically to these early motions, Nauta’s lawyers can be used to push the limits of what she may tolerate while Trump’s team uses the intelligence gained from these sallies to weigh in with maximum advantage for Trump.

    Nauta is collateral and expendable and it is doubtful that he has the wherewithal to ever assert agency in his own defense. Of course, he need never have bothered if he lands back in the White House with The Boss. It might, however, dawn on him eventually that he was abused should he find himself behind bars in the big house, especially if The Boss has walked.

  20. bidrec-gap says:

    Guamanians (Chamorro) serve in the Coast Guard as well as the Navy. They will have their own understanding of this.

    After the crew of The Pueblo were released it was noted in the pages of The Navy Times that the sailors received more commendations than the marines even though they shared the same experience. This view was not much remarked on in the mainstream press but it is still a valid point.

    I would like to see how the local, Guamanian press, is covering this.

Comments are closed.