Judge Orders Witness Names to Remain Secret in Trump Classified Docs Case

Judge Orders Witness Names to Remain Secret in Trump Classified Docs 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)

The federal judge overseeing the classified documents case against former President Donald Trump has ordered that the names of potential witnesses remain secret, marking a victory for special counsel Jack Smith.

In a 24-page ruling on Tuesday, Judge Aileen Cannon said potential government witnesses’ names will be redacted in the case involving President Trump’s handling of classified documents after leaving office in 2021, in line with Mr. Smith’s request, which had cited safety concerns.

However, he will still need to justify the redactions of every witness’s identity, the judge ruled.

“This evaluation contemplates the balancing of several relevant factors, including the safety of witnesses and third parties; a particular danger of perjury or witness intimidation; the protection of information vital to the national security; and the protection of business enterprises from economic reprisals,” the judge wrote.

Judge Cannon also ruled that significant parts of the substantive witness statements to investigators may still be made public, as they do not identify the witnesses or other third parties mentioned.

In her ruling, the judge—who was nominated to the bench by President Trump—took aim at Mr. Smith’s “wholesale request” for complete anonymity of the witnesses via full redactions, noting that redacting identifiable information would sufficiently address safety concerns.

“Confident that such redactions will address the witness-safety concerns at the center of the Special Counsel’s seal request, the Court exercises its discretion to decline the Special Counsel’s wholesale request to seal non-identifying substantive witness statements, for which no particularized factual or legal support has been presented,” she wrote.

Trump Lawyers Call for Release of Witness Names

Judge Cannon also criticized the special counsel’s office for failing to raise all of their concerns regarding the possible release of the names of witnesses during the first round of legal arguments in the case against President Trump.

“Although the record is clear that the Special Counsel could have, and should have, raised its current arguments previously, the Court elects, upon a full review of those newly raised arguments, to reconsider its prior Order,” Judge Cannon said.

The ruling resolves a month-long dispute between the special counsel and President Trump’s legal team, who in January attached information about the witnesses to a legal filing seeking information that they argued would help their client’s defense.

While Judge Cannon had initially agreed to make the information public, citing public interest in the case, Mr. Smith argued that doing so could potentially expose the witnesses—which reportedly include FBI agents, and Secret Service agents, among others—to threats and unnecessary harassment.

Witnesses Could Face ‘Intimidation, Harassment’

“That discovery material, if publicly docketed in unredacted form as the Court has ordered, would disclose the identities of numerous potential witnesses, along with the substance of the statements they made to the FBI or the grand jury, exposing them to significant and immediate risks of threats, intimidation, and harassment,” the special counsel’s office argued in a February court filing.

Witnesses for now will be referenced in court papers using pseudonyms, Judge Cannon said in Tuesday’s ruling.

The Epoch Times has contacted a spokesperson for special counsel Jack Smith’s office for comment.

NTD Photo
Special counsel Jack Smith speaks at the Department of Justice in Washington on June 9, 2023. (Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)

Prosecutors from the Department of Justice allege President Trump attempted to overturn the 2020 election result on Jan. 6, 2021, and have charged him with four counts of obstructing the government, conspiracy to obstruct the government, conspiracy to defraud the government, and conspiracy to violate the voting rights of Americans.

President Trump, the Republican challenger to Democratic President Joe Biden in the Nov. 5 election, has denied any wrongdoing and pleaded not guilty to the charges. His legal team has also argued that he maintains presidential immunity in the case.

The trial in the case against President Trump was initially scheduled to start in May, but it remains uncertain when it will begin.

Elsewhere, President Trump is facing charges related to his alleged attempts to interfere with the peaceful transfer of power after the 2020 election, alleged civil fraud in New York, and alleged hush money payments made to adult actress Stormy Daniels during his 2016 presidential campaign.

He has also denied any wrongdoing in those cases.

Reuters contributed to this report.

From The Epoch Times

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