Donald Trump’s political action committee is paying the legal fees for key witnesses in the Department of Justice (DOJ) inquiry into the former president’s improper hoarding of government documents at his Mar-a-Lago estate — an action that many legal experts believe suggests he is trying to influence their responses to investigators.
Public records obtained by The Washington Post indicate that Trump’s Save America PAC has paid more than $120,000 in fees to the legal firm Brand Woodward Law, which is representing, among other witnesses, former Trump administration official and current adviser Kash Patel, as well as Mar-a-Lago valet Walt Nauta.
Last month, Patel was granted immunity from the DOJ in exchange for his cooperation in the investigation. It’s believed that Patel has crucial information related to the DOJ’s work, and he has provided background on whether Trump had declassified documents, as the former president has claimed (but has not yet substantiated with evidence), that were found with classified markings on them.
Nauta, meanwhile, has told FBI agents that Trump ordered him to move government documents from a storage facility at Mar-a-Lago to Trump’s private residence on the estate, during the time that the Justice Department was attempting to retrieve them.
Stan Brand, the top lawyer at the law firm that Trump’s PAC is paying to represent Nauta, Patel and other witnesses, denied that anything nefarious was taking place, calling criticism against the situation “another cheap shot” against his clients due to their associations with the former president.
Other legal experts, however, disagreed, stating that payments for their legal fees from Trump appeared to be in hopes of persuading them to give statements favorable to him to DOJ investigators.
“It looks like the Trump political action committee is either paying for the silence of these witnesses, for them to take the Fifth or for favorable testimony,” former federal prosecutor Jim Walden said to The Post.
“Nothing to see here,” Ryan Goodman, co-editor-in-chief of Just Security, sardonically stated on Twitter. “Just Trump paying legal fees for witnesses like Walt Nauta, who first denied any awareness of sensitive documents at Mar-a-Lago before he confessed at second FBI interview he moved the boxes with classified docs at Trump’s direction.”
John Dean, the former White House counsel under President Richard Nixon whose testimony against his boss in the 1970s was pivotal in the Watergate investigation, agreed that Trump’s PAC paying these individuals’ legal fees was worthy of suspicion.
“During Watergate this was called paying ‘hush money,'” Dean opined, adding that, in his mind, “some of those Trump is still paying for are clearly lying.”
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