Witnesses in Trump documents case can remain private, judge rules

By Thomson Reuters Apr 9, 2024 | 7:02 PM

By Andrew Goudsward

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A federal judge decided on Tuesday to allow the special counsel prosecuting former President Donald Trump for allegedly mishandling classified documents to shield the identities of possible witnesses in the case for now.

U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon agreed to reconsider a prior ruling that prosecutors argued would have revealed the names of certain witnesses who spoke to investigators, and subjected them to intimidation and harassment from Trump and his supporters.

Lawyers for Trump, the Republican challenger to Democratic President Joe Biden in the Nov. 5 election, attached information about the witnesses to a legal filing in January seeking information that they argued would help Trump’s defense.

Cannon, who was nominated to the bench by Trump, initially agreed to make the information public, citing the need for public access to court records.

Special Counsel Jack Smith, the prosecutor who brought the case, urged Cannon to reevaluate her ruling, arguing the decision was legally flawed and would expose witnesses to unnecessary harassment and possible threats.

Cannon in Tuesday’s updated ruling agreed to redact information in public filings that would lead to witnesses being identified. Witnesses for now will be referenced in court papers using pseudonyms, the judge said.

Trump has repeatedly attacked judges, prosecutors and some known witnesses in the four criminal cases against him. In two of those cases — a federal case accusing Trump of attempting to subvert the results of the 2020 election and a New York state prosecution charging him with concealing hush money payments to a porn star — judges have imposed gag orders limiting Trump’s out-of-court statements.

In the classified documents case, Trump has pleaded not guilty to charges that he illegally kept highly sensitive records after he left office in 2021 and obstructed government efforts to retrieve the material.

Trump has accused prosecutors of targeting him in an attempt harm his campaign.

A trial date in the case remains uncertain.

(Reporting by Andrew Goudsward; Editing by Heather Timmons and Leslie Adler)