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Trump judge slammed by Jack Smith for causing ‘significant risks of threats’ to witnesses

Special Counsel Jack Smith has slammed the judge overseeing the classified documents case against former president Donald Trump for causing “significant risks of threats” to witnesses.

Florida Judge Aileen Cannon has rejected calls to recuse herself from the case due to her appointed by Mr Trump to the bench.

On Thursday, the special counsel criticised her for ordering prosecutors to submit documents in the case without redacting names and other information about witnesses that could lead to “significant and immediate risks of threats, intimidation, and harassment”.

In a court filing, the government prosecutors argued that the reasons to make the information public isn’t strong enough to outweigh the risk to potential witnesses in the case.

The information in question includes names of FBI agents who took part in the raid on the former president’s private Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, details regarding the layout of the facility, such as the location of the bedroom of Mr Trump’s youngest son Barron Trump, as well as information garnered from interviews with witnesses.

It also includes reports on interviews with witnesses such as civil servants and “former close advisors to defendant Trump”.

The special counsel noted that one of the documents also includes information about “uncharged potentially obstructive conduct by a defendant, and speculation about witness tampering by an uncharged individual”.

In a filing against Mr Trump and his staffers Walt Nauta and Carlos De Oliveira, the office of the special counsel noted that in two recent orders, “the Court has denied the Government’s request to seal or redact certain material that was provided to the defendants in discovery”.

“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, as has already happened to witnesses, law enforcement agents, judicial officers, and Department of Justice employees whose identities have been disclosed in cases in which defendant Trump is involved,” the office wrote.

Judge Cannon argued that the special counsel did not provide enough of a legal basis for the information to stay sealed or redacted, but she did allow information regarding national security to stay private.

In Mr Smith’s 22-page filing, the government prosecutors wrote that “Reconsideration is warranted to correct clear error and prevent manifest injustice,” before they noted that “the Court applied the wrong legal standard and issued orders that, in practice, will expose witnesses and others to intolerable and needless risks”.

Judge Aileen Cannon is presiding over classified documents case (AP)
Judge Aileen Cannon is presiding over classified documents case (AP)

This criticism from Mr Smith’s office comes after a filing on Wednesday, in which he previewed the “threats that have been made over social media to a prospective Government witness and the surrounding circumstances, and the fact that those threats are the subject of an ongoing federal investigation being handled by a United States Attorney’s Office”.

The next hearings in the classified documents case are scheduled for next week, but it remains unclear if Judge Cannon will address the issue at that time.

What’s also unclear is when this case will go to trial. While Judge Cannon has set a date for May, she has indicated that it is likely to be delayed.

The former president’s legal team has requested that some deadlines in the case be postponed indefinitely.

On Thursday, prosecutors also asked Judge Cannon to reject that request, writing that: “The defendants move this Court to indefinitely postpone their deadline for unspecified legal motions—their fourth attempt to adjourn different pretrial trial deadlines or the trial itself. Their objective is plain—to delay trial as long as possible”.

The prosecutors added: “And the tactics they deploy are relentless and misleading—they will stop at nothing to stall the adjudication of the charges against them by a fair and impartial jury of citizens. The Court should promptly reject the defendants’ motion.”

Mr Trump, who faces a total of 91 charges across four indictments in addition to a number of major civil cases, has attempted to push all trials back as far as possible – after the 2024 election.

If he manages to return to the White House, he could appoint prosecutors in the federal cases against him who could drop the charges.