On Monday, a federal judge delivered a massive smackdown to Special Counsel Jack Smith, rejecting his request to keep a list of 84 potential witnesses in the prosecution of former President Donald Trump over his alleged handling of classified documentation a secret. According to a report published by NBC News, federal prosecutors asked U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon, who was appointed to the bench by the former president, to keep a list of witnesses sealed as Trump is banned from communicating directly with said individuals about the case.
In the order, Cannon stated that prosecutors were unsuccessful in explaining why it was necessary to keep the names secret or why they couldn’t simply redact or partially seal the document. NBC News then reached out to Smith’s office, along with the DOJ for a comment on Cannon’s decision to deny the request. Attorneys representing Trump did not take a position on the request from Smith, but did reserve the right to disagree with certain aspects of it, like its implementation, according to the order from Cannon.
During the former president’s arraignment earlier in the month, U.S. Magistrate Judge Jonathan Goodman put out an order that called for Trump to sign a bond that would prohibit him from talking with specific witnesses, except through their legal counsel. He also requested that Smith’s team hand over a list of potential witnesses that Trump would not be allowed to communicate with directly.
In a filing that was turned in last Friday, the government stated that it had provided the legal team representing the former president with the list and asked that he and Walt Nauta, a Trump aide and an alleged co-conspirator in his prosecution, sign an acknowledgement that they had been given 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,” Jay Bratt on Smith’s legal team stated in the Friday filing.
Many mainstream media outlets were thrilled with the decision from Cannon, including NBC News, the New York Times, CBS News, The Associated Press, and several others, due to the fact that they believe this case is of public and historical interest that simply cannot be overstated, while also reflecting 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,” Chuck Tobin, a lawyer who currently represents the press coalition, remarked in a statement Monday.
Former President Donald Trump was indicted on a total of 37 charges related to his keeping classified documents after leaving the Oval Office back in January 2021 and allegedly hiding them from legal authorities, according to a filing that was unsealed this past month. The charges are the result of 100 classified documents being discovered during a raid on Trump’s Florida estate last summer.
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