The judge overseeing the federal government’s classified documents case against former President Donald Trump has ruled that special counsel Jack Smith must turn over his list of 84 witnesses to media and the public.
Judge Aileen Cannon delivered her ruling Monday after repeated requests from media outlets to obtain the list of individuals who prosecutors will rely on as they make their case that President Trump allegedly possessed classified documents and obstructed an investigation by authorities to reclaim them. Cannon wrote that she was unconvinced prosecutors do not have other means to shield their witnesses from public scrutiny.
From Business Insider:
“The Government’s Motion does not explain why filing the list with the Court is necessary; it does not offer a particularized basis to justify sealing the list from public view; it does not explain why partial sealing, redaction, or means other than sealing are unavailable or unsatisfactory; and it does not specify the duration of any proposed seal,” Cannon wrote.
Although President Trump has already been provided the list of witnesses against him, he is not allowed to contact them except through counsel as part of his release agreement. Attorneys for the former president have intimated that some of the 84 individuals may remain in close proximity to Trump, including Waltine Nauta, a body man who was seen on tape handling boxes at Mar-a-Lago that prosecutors allege contained incriminated documents. Nauta was spotted alongside President Trump during his arraignment in Miami.
The case against the 45th president will rely heavily on felony charges brought under the 1917 Espionage Act, the first time that federal criminal charges have been filed against a current or former U.S. president. President Trump and his attorneys have maintained that any documents he took from the White House were declassified through executive action under the Presidential Records Act.
Alina Habba, an attorney for Trump, has said her legal team plans to subpoena dozens of witnesses who may introduce bias in the government’s investigation, including FBI agents who ordered Mar-a-Lago staff to turn off security cameras during the raid. Timothy Parlatore, a former attorney for Trump, suggested the entire case may be dismissed after he claimed that federal prosecutors hinted to a grand jury that the former president is guilty simply for exercising his attorney-client privileges.
Judge Cannon has set a sooner-than-expected date for the trial, set to coincide with the earliest phases of the Republican presidential primary season.