Judge grants Jack Smith's request in ongoing Trump legal battle

 March 23, 2024

U.S. District Court Judge Aileen Cannon issued a ruling on March 22 regarding a request from special counsel Jack Smith to redact, substitute, or delete information in a high-profile classified documents case against former President Donald Trump.

Judge Cannon determined that while information deemed relevant and helpful to the defense may need to be shared, irrelevant details could be omitted from discovery.

The judge's decision

To assess these requests, the judge scrutinized the special counsel's assertions of sensitivity and privilege in the documents. Disclosure of the material is permitted if it is deemed pertinent and beneficial to the defense of the 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.

The order, detailed in a 21-page sealed document, described the classified information in question, with an 8-page public version 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 stated. "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 ongoing conflict

Throughout the case, the special counsel and former president's legal teams have contested access to classified information, particularly concerning allegations that President Trump retained classified documents without authorization.

In a separate order, the judge instructed the parties to draft jury instructions and proposed verdicts under various scenarios, including one where prosecutors needed to prove Trump lacked authorization.

The defense has contended for months that prosecutors failed to provide necessary discovery, while prosecutors argued they had no obligation to disclose certain information or that it fell outside the case's scope.

The documents involved

Category 3 documents, pertaining to a potential government witness, were found by Judge Cannon to contain relevant and helpful information for the defense, including potential impeachment value.

Prosecutors may submit summaries of this classified information instead of the original documents, provided they afford the defendant substantially similar defense capabilities.

Category 4 documents, not specific to any charged document and not slated for trial use by the special counsel, were approved for deletion from discovery at the prosecutors' request.

The judge deferred ruling on two sensitive intelligence reports directly linked to a charged document, received by President Trump during his tenure. The specifics of these reports, along with redactions requested in a set of emails, will be addressed in subsequent hearings.

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