Judge Cannon Allows Special Counsel Jack Smith to Redact Government Witness Classified Information in Trump Discovery – Documents Case

Judge Cannon Allows Special Counsel Jack Smith to Redact Government Witness Classified Information in Trump Discovery – Documents Case
(Left) Former US President Donald Trump addresses Christian broadcasters at the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) International Christian Media Convention in Nashville, Tenn., on Feb. 22, 2024. (Right) Special counsel Jack Smith speaks to the press at the US Department of Justice building in Washington on Aug. 1, 2023. (Kevin Wurm, Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)

U.S. District Court Judge Aileen Cannon ruled on March 22 on a request from special counsel Jack Smith to redact, substitute, or delete information in the high-profile classified documents case he is prosecuting against former President Donald Trump, finding that information helpful to the defense may have to be shared in some form but information she deemed irrelevant to the case could be deleted from discovery.

To make these determinations, the judge reviews the special counsel’s “sworn representations of sensitivity and privilege” in the documents, but the material is still allowed to be disclosed when it is “relevant and helpful to the defense of an accused.”

“In seeking to withhold classified information from discovery under Section 4, all parties agree that the Special Counsel bears the burden of proof,” Judge Cannon wrote.

In a 21-page, sealed version of the order, Judge Cannon described the classified information at issue; an 8-page public version was also filed, outlining four categories of documents.

“The Court GRANTS the Special Counsel’s Motion as to Categories 3 and 4 in their entirety, as well as most of the Category 2 requests,” the judge wrote. “The Court RESERVES RULING on the entirety of Category 1 and the few remaining Category 2 requests, pending resolution of certain issues raised in Defendants’ Motions to Compel Discovery.”

The special counsel and former president’s legal teams have been litigating over access to classified information throughout the duration of this case, which in part alleges that President Trump retained classified documents without authorization. In a separate recent court order, the judge asked the parties to undergo a legal exercise, submitting jury instructions and proposed verdicts on scenarios including one where the prosecutors needed to prove that President Trump did not have this authorization.

The defense has argued for months that the prosecutors have not turned over the discovery required, while prosecutors have argued that they have no obligation to share some of this information, or that it is outside the scope of this case.

Witness Documents

The Category 3 documents relate “to a potential government witness,” and Judge Cannon found they contained information helpful and relevant to the defense, because they have “potential impeachment value.”

Prosecutors will be allowed to submit a summary of the classified information, instead of the original documents, as long as these summaries “will provide the defendant with substantially the same ability to make his defense as would disclosure of the classified information.”

Category 4 documents were ones the judge deemed “not specific to any charged document,” and ones the special counsel said would not be used at trial. Prosecutors requested deleting all these documents from discovery, and the judge granted the request.

“Even assuming the information crosses the low hurdle of relevance, the Court is satisfied that it would not be helpful to Defendants,” Judge Cannon wrote. “Any theory of helpfulness would depend, as best the Court can tell, on series of speculative and attenuated inferences.”

Reserved Ruling

The judge reserved ruling on “two sensitive intelligence reports directly related to a document charged in one of the unlawful-retention counts as to Defendant Trump.”

These reports had apparently been given to President Trump personally during his time in office.

The prosecutors wanted to redact specific words and phrases, and the judge found she could not “say with certainty that the information is not ‘relevant and helpful’ to the defense.”

The judge stated she would rule on this after another hearing with special counsel and her upcoming ruling on the defense’s separate motion to compel.

The judge added that the prosecutors’ requests to redact words and phrases from a set of emails are also “bound up” in that motion to compel, and will be resolved at a later stage.

Those emails include “after-action reports” sent by those briefing President Trump and high-ranking government and intelligence personnel, and the prosecutors’ emails about these documents.

From The Epoch Times

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