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Counsel slams Trump-appointed judge for handling of prosecution

By: Steve Schuster, [email protected]//February 12, 2024//

President Trump's Mar-a-Lago residence in Palm Beach, Fla. FBI Agents raided the residence in August of 2022, and recovered boxes of classified documents. Staff Photo Steve Schuster

Counsel slams Trump-appointed judge for handling of prosecution

By: Steve Schuster, [email protected]//February 12, 2024//

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Supporters of former President Donald J. Trump line the streets in front of a South Florida Federal courthouse Monday. Staff Photo Steve Schuster

Supporters of former President Donald Trump lined the streets in front of a Federal Court house in Fort Pierce, Fla., Monday. Trump appeared in a closed-door criminal courtroom for a case involving the classified documents he retained at Mar-A-Lago, his Palm Beach residence.

Trump and his legal team met with Federal Court Judge Aileen Cannon for several hours in a closed-door hearing Monday morning. Special (Prosecutor) Counsel Jack Smith’s team met with Judge Cannon Monday afternoon.

In August 2022, FBI agents executed a search warrant of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence in Palm Beach, where they recovered boxes of classified documents.

On Monday, Feb. 12, 2024, Trump issued a statement to supporters, “We have never seen this before in America HISTORY. They want me arrested. They want me ERASED from the ballot. THEY WANT ME GONE,” Trump said.

On Friday, Smith condemned the Trump appointed judge presiding over the classified documents case against former President Trump.

PolitiFact reported Judge Cannon has been accused of appearing in a photo wearing a hat supporting Trump, but rumors that Cannon was forced to recuse herself were false.

In May of 2020, the 39 year-old judge was tapped by Trump to serve as a United States district judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

According to court documents obtained by the Wisconsin Law Journal, Cannon’s two recent Orders denied the Government’s request to seal or redact certain material that was provided to the defendants in discovery pursuant to a protective order.

“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,” Smith argued in a government motion for reconsideration and stay filed Feb. 8, 2024.

Trump supporters stand in front of a Florida courthouse Monday. Staff Photo Steve Schuster

Smith cited the Eleventh Circuit which has held that the compelling-interest standard applied by the Court does not apply to “documents filed in connection with motions to compel discovery,” which instead may be sealed or redacted simply upon a showing of “good cause.”

“The Government has readily satisfied that standard here,” Smith wrote.

Additionally, Smith argued, “ensuring that the correct legal standard is applied, reconsideration is warranted to ‘prevent manifest injustice … The Court’s Orders require the public identification of more than two dozen people who participated in the investigation. Some may never testify at trial and therefore would otherwise be able to retain their anonymity and privacy absent the Court’s Orders.”

According to court documents, government exhibits include a FBI 302 report of interviews with potential Government witnesses.

“Revelation of these witnesses’ identities, or the substance of their interviews with the FBI, dangerously risks exposing them to the same type of harassment and intimidation described above and experienced by the witness in the sealed ex parte exhibit,” Smith argued, listing dozens of other exhibits that should be sealed.

In one instance, an exhibit details how an FBI Special Agent handled sensitive information about the classified documents seized from Mar-a-Lago.

Another exhibit requested to be sealed lists “every FBI agent who was present for the search—a search that Trump has decried on social media as a ‘a raid by the Gestapo.’ ”

In closing, Smith said, “the Government asks the Court to reconsider its Orders in ECF Nos. 283 and 286, and to stay, pending resolution of this motion, the requirement to submit newly proposed redactions.”

A March 1 hearing with Cannon will likely address if the case will proceed in May as scheduled.

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