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Judge Rejects Special Counsel’s Request To Keep Witness List Secret In Trump Documents Case

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OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.


The federal judge who is presiding over former President Donald Trump’s classified documents case has given Special Counsel Jack Smith his first setback.

Judge Aileen Cannon, who was appointed by Trump, rejected Smith’s motion to have his list of 84 possible witnesses kept secret, NBC News reported.

In her decision the judge said that prosecutors did not adequately explain why the names of the potential witnesses, who the former president is barred from speaking to, secret.

NBC News reported.

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Lawyers for Trump took “no position” on Smith’s motion but reserved the right to object to aspects of it, such as implementation, according to Cannon’s order.

At Trump’s arraignment this month, U.S. Magistrate Judge Jonathan Goodman ordered Trump to sign a bond prohibiting him from speaking to certain witnesses, except through his attorneys. Goodman also asked Smith’s team to provide a list of the witnesses Trump would be barred from communicating with directly.

In a filing Friday, the government said it had provided Trump’s attorneys with the list, and asked that the former president and Walt Nauta, a Trump aide and alleged co-conspirator in the case, sign an acknowledgement that they had received the list.

“In order to implement Judge Goodman’s special condition of release, the government hereby moves to file the list of witnesses subject to the prohibition under seal with the Court,” a member of Smnith’s team, Jay Bratt, said in Friday’s filing.

The list of witnesses was sought by the press, including NBC News, The Associated Press, The New York Times, CBS News, and others.

They said that its historic interest in the list “cannot be overstated,” and that it reflected “a turning point from the secrecy of the Grand Jury investigation to the public administration of justice involving the highest level of power in American Government.”

“We are pleased that the Court recognized the First Amendment requires the government to meet a very high bar to seal any portion of these historic proceedings,” an attorney for the group of media companies, Chuck Tobin, said.

Last week Smith’s team requested a delay in the case from the same judge.

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U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon, a Trump appointee, initially set a court date of Aug. 14, but according to a filing by Smith, he wants that pushed back to Dec. 11, The Epoch Times reported.

“The request asks for the trial to be delayed by four months because there is classified information involved. To handle this information, Trump’s lawyers need to get security clearances, and that process takes time,” the outlet noted. “Interim security clearances are currently being processed and should be granted within 48 hours after Trump’s lawyers submit the required forms. However, obtaining the final clearance to access a few specific classified documents may take anywhere from 45 to 60 days.”

In order to obtain access to the classified information related to the case, Trump’s legal team must possess security clearances. According to Smith, he has discussed the matter with Trump’s attorneys, who have not raised any objections to the postponement of the trial date. That being said, it is expected that the former president’s lawyers will file their own motion outlining their reservations and objections to the dates proposed by the government, the outlet reported.

In his motion, Smith acknowledged that the government has been diligent in providing the defense with unclassified discovery materials, which includes “evidence gathered through subpoenas, warrants, grand jury testimony transcripts, witness interviews, relevant documents, and closed-circuit television footage obtained during the investigation,” The Epoch Times noted.

“Even with the prompt production the government has arranged, the inclusion of additional time for defense counsel to review and digest the discovery, to make their own decisions about any production to the government, and for the government to review the same, is reasonable and appropriate,” says Smith’s motion.

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