Aug 7, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Trump trap: Long list of witnesses includes his inner circle

Photo illustration of RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, attorney Todd Blanche, former U.S. Vice President Mike Pence,  attorney Evan Corcoran, and  attorney John Eastman

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photos: David McNew, Atilgan Ozdil/Anadolu Agency, Anna Rose Layden, Nathan Howard/Bloomberg, and Andy Cross/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Potential witnesses at former President Trump's criminal trials could include his vice president and now-rival for the GOP nomination, the chair of the Republican National Committee, one of Trump's own lawyers and at least seven current advisers.

Why it matters: Trump's legal troubles have blanketed the vast network of aides, lawyers, advisers and associates that fueled his takeover of the Republican Party. Many remain Trump loyalists — raising thorny conflict-of-interest questions that further tie the campaign to the courtroom.

Driving the news: Trump has agreed not to communicate with any known witnesses about his indictments unless through an attorney — a commitment that could prove difficult for a famously unrestrained candidate surrounded by them.

  • Prosecutors have identified 84 witnesses in the classified documents case alone, including Trump's valet and co-defendant Walt Nauta, who traveled with the former president to his arraignment in the D.C. case last week.
  • Also traveling with Trump were advisers Jason Miller and Boris Epshteyn, both of whom were involved in post-election challenges in 2020 and were interviewed by prosecutors.

Zoom in: The Washington Post identified five other current advisers who could be called to testify against Trump about his efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

  • The classified documents indictment accuses Trump of showing a military map to senior adviser Susie Wiles, who has taken an active role finding and financing lawyers for Trump associates, CNN reports.
  • Campaign aides Liz Harrington and Margo Martin were present at a 2021 meeting in which Trump was recorded boasting about a classified document — triggering a superseding indictment last month.
  • RNC chair Ronna McDaniel was on a December 2020 call in which Trump and attorney John Eastman discussed the plot to assemble fake electors, according to the Jan. 6 indictment.

Between the lines: To understand the scale of Trump's tangled web, just look at the lawyers defending him and his associates.

  • Evan Corcoran, whose detailed notes gave prosecutors a roadmap to indict Trump in the classified documents case, remains on Trump's legal team and was present in the courtroom for last week's arraignment.
  • Prosecutors have requested a hearing in the classified documents case to discuss potential conflicts posed by Stan Woodward, an attorney who represents Nauta and at least three possible government witnesses.
  • Attorney Todd Blanche represents Trump in all three indictments, including the Manhattan hush money case. He also represents Epshteyn, whose cell phone was seized in the Jan. 6 investigation last year.

The bottom line: Days after signing a court order pledging not to intimidate witnesses, Trump unleashed a barrage of online attacks against former Vice President Mike Pence.

  • Pence has vowed to "comply with the law" if called to testify at trial — but his first face-to-face with Trump during the campaign could come on debate stage.
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