A lawyer for Donald Trump's butler and body man, whose legal bills are being paid by a Trump political organization, is alleging that a key prosecutor in the classified documents case inappropriately sought to pressure him by bringing up his application for a D.C. judgeship, a source familiar with the matter told NBC News on Thursday.
The attorney, Stanley Woodward, represents Walt Nauta, who has been under investigation by investigators over his shifting accounts of whether he moved boxes of documents at Mar-a-Lago to the former president's urging.
In a letter filed with the chief federal judge in Washington, the sources said Woodward accused Jay Bratt, the Justice Department's chief of counterintelligence, of raising the issue of the judgeship during an October meeting at the DOJ where prosecutors were trying to convince Woodward that Nauta had lied and should cooperate in the investigation. For more than a year, Bratt has been working on the classified documents case.
The allegation was first reported by the Guardian. Woodward did not respond to a request for comment. A spokesman for the special counsel declined to comment.
The source said Woodward's allegation could raise questions about any prosecution of Nauta, a military valet in the Trump White House who went to work for the former president at Mar-a-Lago, adding that the Justice Department appears to be taking the allegation seriously and plans to respond to the judge.
Woodward alleges that Bratt had with him a folder of information related to Woodward's bid for a judgeship, and said to him, I didn t take you for a Trump guy. The implication was that if his client didn t cooperate, the source said, the court would go badly for him.
Records show that Trump's PAC, the Save America PAC, has paid fees to Woodward and his partner, Stan Brand, who represent a number of witnesses in the special counsel investigation. Brand has said there is nothing inappropriate about that.
Even if Woodward's allegations are true - the Justice Department is expected to dispute them - legal experts say it s not clear they would have an impact on any possible prosecution of Trump, who announced his White House bid in November. The claim is consistent with a strategy by Donald Trump's legal team to raise questions about prosecutorial tactics.
Trump accused the investigator that the prosecutor sought to bribe the lawyer by offering an important judgeship in the Biden administration if his client Flips on Trump. This does not match how the source described Woodward's allegations.
The finger-pointing comes as special counsel Jack Smith's investigation into Donald Trump appears to be nearing its end. Donald Trump's attorneys were told at a meeting with prosecutors at the Justice Department on Monday that Trump is a target of the classified documents investigation, according to two sources briefed on the meeting.
People who have been informed that they are targets of criminal probes are often, but not always, indicted.
Donald Trump said on his social media platform Truth Social that no one has told me I m being indicted and I shouldn t be because I ve done nothing wrong. In November, Smith was appointed Special Counsel by Attorney General Merrick Garland in the documents investigation and another probe centered on the Jan. 6 riot. Smith has been tasked with investigating the handling of sensitive documents taken from the Trump White House as well as the possible obstruction of that investigation.