Judge In Trump Documents Case Denies Special Counsel Jack Smith's Request To Seal Witness List

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by Tyler Durden
Tuesday, Jun 27, 2023 - 11:25 PM

Authored by Caden Pearson via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

A federal judge on June 26 denied special counsel Jack Smith’s request to file a confidential list of 84 witnesses in the classified documents case involving former President Donald Trump and co-defendant Walt Nauta.

Former President Donald Trump is introduced at the Oakland County Republican Party's Lincoln Day dinner at Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi, Mich., on June 25, 2023. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Smith’s motion, filed on June 23, sought to keep the list of witnesses a secret from Trump and forbid him from communicating directly with them about the case.

U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon, a Trump appointee, said in her order that prosecutors failed to explain why it was necessary to keep the names under seal or why redacting or partially sealing the document would be inadequate.

According to Cannon’s order, Trump’s attorneys took “no position” on Smith’s motion but reserved the right to object to aspects of it, such as implementation. Cannon also said that “numerous news organizations” opposed Smith’s motion in court filings citing the First Amendment and related legal principles.

“Upon review of the foregoing materials, the Government’s Motion is denied without prejudice, and the Motion to Intervene and accompanying Motions to Appear Pro Hac Vice are denied as moot,” Cannon wrote in her ruling.

“The Government’s Motion does not explain why filing the list with the Court is necessary; it does not offer a particularized basis to justify sealing the list from public view; it does not explain why partial sealing, redaction, or means other than sealing are unavailable or unsatisfactory; and it does not specify the duration of any proposed seal.”

In Smith’s June 23 motion, he said the government provided Trump’s legal team with the list of witnesses they wished to remain under seal. The court had previously instructed Trump at his June 13 arraignment, at which he pleaded not guilty, not to engage in any communication with Nauta or the witnesses involved in the case.

Security Clearances

Trump was indicted on 37 counts related to sensitive and classified documents retained beyond his term in office. The documents were seized during an FBI raid on his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida in August 2022.

Smith presented evidence during the June 13 proceeding indicating that Trump violated federal law by allegedly retaining the documents, sharing them with individuals who were not authorized to access such information, and obstructing the investigation by directing Nauta to relocate boxes at Mar-a-Lago instead of surrendering all the materials to the authorities.

Trump has maintained his innocence. In various remarks to the media and to his supporters, Trump has labeled the prosecution and raid as the “weaponization” of the Department of Justice under his chief 2024 presidential rival, incumbent President Joe Biden.

Last week, Cannon initially set the trial date for Aug. 14, which is about seven weeks away. Smith filed a separate motion requesting to delay the start date by four months, pushing it to December.

He stressed that proceeding with the trial on the originally scheduled date would not allow enough time for adequate preparation, which would negatively affect both the defense and the government’s interests.

The case involves classified information, so Trump’s lawyers need to seek and receive final security clearances to access a few classified documents, which can take up to 60 days. The process for his lawyers to receive interim security clearances was already underway.

Smith filed a separate motion on June 23 requesting a classified information security officer under the Classified Information Procedures Act (CIPA). The motion clarified that CIPA has implications for the trial proceedings, as it introduces additional time requirements specific to cases involving classified information.

Under CIPA, parties can request a pretrial conference to discuss any possible issues related to the prosecution of the case concerning classified information. Cannon set a July 14 hearing to discuss how classified materials will be handled in the case in a separate order on June 26.

The appointment of a classified information security officer also was granted.