Judge Rejects Jack Smith’s Plea, Allowing Trump Co-Defendant to Submit FBI Transcript in Classified Docs Case

A federal judge has allowed a Trump co-defendant in the classified documents case to file a redacted FBI interview transcript with his motion to dismiss, in a blow for special counsel Jack Smith.

U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon said in a paperless order on Wednesday there were “even stronger” reasons to deny Mr. Smith’s “sweeping” request to overcome the public’s “common-law interest in access to these materials.”

The material in question is the transcript of an FBI interview with Trump co-defendant Walt Nauta, who was charged for allegedly mishandling classified documents stored at the former president’s Mar-a-Lago estate in southern Florida.

Ahead of a hearing slated for Friday, Mr. Nauta has been ordered to file his motions for a bill of particulars or to dismiss by Thursday. A bill of particulars is a detailed statement of charges; the co-defendant has argued that the prosecution hasn’t made clear what laws he violated.

Mr. Nauta is expected to argue in motions to dismiss that the prosecution has failed to state an offense, that the law is too vague for the average citizen to understand, and that the law is too ambiguous, therefore the judge must apply the law in a manner favorable to the defendant, according to the order.

In her order, Judge Cannon said that while Mr. Smith sufficiently argued to shield the names of potential government witnesses over safety concerns, she came to a “different conclusion” regarding Mr. Nauta’s motions and the attached FBI transcript.

“Given the undisputedly substantive nature of the Motions, the Court has applied the common-law right of access standard to this inquiry, deeming it sufficient to resolve the instant requests as briefed,” the judge wrote.

Judge Cannon found there were “similar but even stronger reasons” to allow the FBI transcript to be filed, albeit with redactions to witness names.

“With respect to the substantive statements contained in Defendant Nauta’s FBI interview, the Court reaches a different conclusion,” the judge wrote.

“For similar but even stronger reasons than those articulated in the Court’s recent Order applying Rule 16 438—and after balancing the parties’ asserted interests in this case of significant public concern—the Court finds the Special Counsel’s sweeping request and generalized rationales inadequate to overcome the public’s common-law interest in access to these materials.

“Accordingly, Defendant Nauta may attach his FBI interview transcript but shall (for the reasons stated previously) redact the names of any potential government witnesses and ancillary names where referenced therein,” the judge wrote.

Additionally, the judge ordered that Mr. Nauta’s grand jury testimony taken on June 21, 2022, be filed entirely under seal “for now.”

However, whether they remain under seal will depend on arguments made at the upcoming hearing on Friday.

“The parties shall be prepared, however, to present argument at the hearing on the need for continued sealing of that transcript given the Special Counsel’s partial use of that transcript in a public motion 381, and any other factors related to the need for continued secrecy under the circumstances,” Judge Cannon wrote.

Her order stated that no redactions should be made “beyond those authorized in this order.”

Judge Cannon ordered a hearing for Friday on motions to dismiss filed by Mr. Nauta and another co-defendant, Carlos de Oliveira.

Mr. Nauta was a valet to President Trump. In early June 2023, he was charged with six counts related to concealing classified documents.

Around a month later, Mr. de Oliveira, property manager for Mar-a-Lago, was added as a codefendant and accused of helping delete security footage of boxes of classified documents being moved.

They have both pleaded not guilty.

Mr. de Oliveira’s motion to dismiss the indictment or for a bill of particulars to specify each charge, similar to Mr. Nauta, will also be covered at the hearing.

Prosecutors have argued that a bill of particulars is not necessary citing the detail in the indictment as sufficient. They have framed the motions as a “thinly veiled attempt to get the Government to disclose its trial strategy and detail the evidence it intends to present.”

“Extensive discovery” has already been provided, including surveillance footage from Mar-a-Lago, communications, grand jury transcripts, and photographs of alleged crimes, prosecutors have argued.

The upcoming hearing comes after Judge Canon recently denied two of four motions to dismiss filed by President Trump after hearing oral arguments. The denied motions were on the grounds of unconstitutional vagueness and under the Presidential Records Act.

However, to the ire of Mr. Smith, arguments using the Presidential Records Act could be made during the jury instruction stage, the judge determined.

Mr. Smith was outraged that the judge did not state outright whether she would accept those arguments in an order that he could appeal.

Catherine Yang contributed to this report. 

From The Epoch Times

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