Request to Redact Witness Names Approved by Trump Trial Judge

The judge who’s presiding over the federal classified documents case against Donald Trump granted a prosecutor’s request that seeks to protect the identities of potential witnesses the government may call.

Even though U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon granted the request, she wouldn’t categorically block witness statements from disclosure. In making that ruling, she said there was no basis for a “sweeping” or “blanket” restriction on those statements being included in pretrial motions.

The recent ruling revolves around a dispute that had arisen between Trump’s lawyers and special counsel Jack Smith, who were arguing about how many details about witnesses as well as their statements would be made public before the trial started.

The disagreement had been going on for weeks now, which had slowed down how fast the case against Trump has proceeded.

The case still doesn’t have a definitive start date. Both sides, though, have said they could be prepared to start the trial over the summer.

In making her ruling Tuesday, Cannon showed that she remains skeptical about the government’s theory behind prosecuting Trump in the case, saying that it raises “still-developing and somewhat muddled questions.”

All of this began at the beginning of the year, when Trump’s lawyers filed a motion that was partially redacted that sought to require the prosecution to turn over a wealth of documents they claimed would improve their own claims that the Biden administration was seeking to “weaponize” the government against Trump.

The defense team sought permission to file the motion, which had included attachments that they got from prosecutors without redactions. But, the prosecution team objected to unsealing that motion because it would reveal publicly the identity of some people who may become government witnesses in the case.

The defense was granted its request and exhibits, saying they could be submitted unredacted as long as they removed personally identifying information about the witnesses.

The prosecution then asked Cannon to reconsider, arguing that these witnesses could face harassment and threats if they were identified publicly.

On Tuesday, she explained why the witness names could remain redacted, writing:

“Although the record is clear that the Special Counsel could have, and should have, raised its current arguments previously, the Court elects, upon a full review of those newly raised arguments, to reconsider its prior Order.”

The prosecution can’t claim a complete victory, though. Smith’s team had requested that the substance of every witness statement be sealed from the pretrial motions, except for information that could identify who witnesses were. That request was rejected by Cannon.

In the ruling, Cannon wrote:

“As for legal authority, the cases cited in the Special Counsel’s papers do not lend support to this sweeping request; nor do they appear to have been offered as such. And based on the Court’s independent research, granting this request would be unprecedented; the Court cannot locate any case — high-profile or otherwise — in which a court has authorized anything remotely similar to the sweeping relief south here.”