Former President Donald J. Trump and his personal aide, Walt Nauta, were ordered on Tuesday by a federal magistrate not to discuss their criminal case, even though the two work closely and see each other virtually every day.
Magistrate Judge Jonathan Goodman, who oversaw the hearing, said any discussions related to the case must go through their attorneys. Mr. Trump and Mr. Nauta were charged with conspiring to obstruct a federal investigation into Mr. Trump’s handling of dozens of classified documents after he left office.
Mr. Nauta did not file a statement. A lawyer for Mr. Nauta, who is accused of lying to investigators and plotting with Mr. Trump to hide boxes containing classified documents from the FBI and federal prosecutors, requested a two-week extension because he needed a local lawyer who sponsored it.
The restrictions – which do not apply to other topics of conversation – are common for co-defendants in a criminal case, but could be particularly difficult to comply with since Nauta’s job is to follow the former president as he goes about his days, of various needs. To underscore Mr. Nauta’s closeness to Mr. Trump, Mr. Nauta was traveling with him from Mr. Trump’s club, Doral, to the courthouse for Tuesday’s hearing.
The two men talk often, and for the better part of the past two years, Mr. Nauta first served as a waiter in the White House and now serves as Mr. Trump’s aide in his post-presidential life. The former president tends to treat his close personal aides as sounding boards for all kinds of topics.
Mr. Trump is little known for his restraint in typical circumstances, but especially when told to do something by a person in a position of authority. And an edict not to argue a case that has consumed Trump’s thinking for weeks poses an even greater challenge.
The same restriction on defendants’ communications was also applied to trial witnesses, of whom the government is expected to draw up a list. This poses a similar challenge to the situation with Mr. Nauta: A number of Mr. Trump’s advisers, current and former Mar-a-Lago staff members, and even some of his lawyers were interviewed in the case.