Judge chastises DOJ for delay in Trump documents case

 May 21, 2024

The Florida case involving classified documents and former President Donald Trump is proceeding erratically and inconsistently for special counsel Jack Smith.

Aileen Cannon, a U.S. District Judge appointed by Trump, issued a reprimand against Smith in an order dated Sunday afternoon. The matter pertained to the parties' requests for redactions in the criminal case, as the Washington Examiner reported.

The judge has indicated that Smith is reversing his previous statements regarding his apprehensions regarding the confidentiality of grand jury proceedings and the safety of witnesses.

This action undermines the special counsel's consistency during a trial-bound case that is already encountering significant obstacles.

From the Judge

“The Court deems it necessary to express concern over the Special Counsel’s treatment of certain sealed materials in this case,” Cannon wrote in her five-page order in the dispute over what information in pending pretrial motions should be concealed.

As she has done in the past, Cannon partially complied with Smith's requests to seal documents. However, she expressed concern over the special counsel's "no objection" to a complete unsealing of docket entries that had been previously sealed and pertained to the allegations of prosecutorial misconduct made by Trump attorneys.

The judge expressed apprehensions that Smith is essentially contradicting himself by endorsing complete transparency exclusively for documents that are advantageous to his position.

In support of its motion to unseal previously redacted docket entries, the special counsel's office argued that it was attempting to publicly refute Trump's allegations of prosecutorial misconduct. "Fair enough," Cannon wrote.

Concern from Cannon

But the larger concern for the judge is that Smith’s office failed to explain a basis for why the special counsel couldn’t defend the integrity of his office while simultaneously preserving witness safety rules he has repeatedly cited to the court “and which the Court has endeavored with diligence to accommodate in its multiple Orders on sealing/redaction.”

“The Court is disappointed in these developments,” Cannon added. “The sealing and redaction rules should be applied consistently and fairly upon a sufficient factual and legal showing. And parties should not make requests that undermine any prior representations or positions except upon full disclosure to the Court and appropriate briefing.”

As much of the case remains under seal, the specifics of the dispute between Cannon and Smith remain murky. However, the judge's most recent reprimand highlights the deteriorating relationship between the prosecution and the jurist presiding over the case.

More Denials

Cannon similarly denied a request from Trump's counsel to omit the names of several witnesses from his motions, in the same sequence. Trump had filed a motion to suppress the information on the grounds that it violated the attorney-client privilege.

This is not the first time that visible tensions have developed between Cannon and Smith. A ruling issued by the special counsel in February to unseal a segment of witness testimony was deemed a "manifest injustice."

In an apparent effort to defend against Trump's prosecutorial misconduct allegations, Cannon is now interrogating Smith in a similar fashion regarding his willingness to recant his own concerns regarding the confidentiality of specific filings.

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