Judge grants Jack Smith request in documents case amid ongoing tension

 April 11, 2024

Amid ongoing tensions in connection with Donald Trump's classified documents matter, a federal judge in Florida handed Justice Department prosecutors something of a win this week.

As Fox News reports, Judge Aileen Cannon partially granted special counsel Jack Smith's request to redact the names of certain government witnesses in the case against the former president, while continuing to hold firm in her stance regarding other contested issues.

Cannon's decision

As the outlet notes, in Tuesday's ruling, Cannon acquiesced to Smith's desire to keep secret the identities of Secret Service agents, FBI agents, and some other witnesses under seal in the documents proceeding.

However, she declined to order that all witness statements in their entirety be kept under seal, suggesting that no need or legal basis for such a move had been demonstrated, and as such, only content that could be used as a means to identify the witness providing a particular piece of testimony could be kept confidential.

In her order narrowing Smith's win on the matter, 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.”

She added, “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 sought here.”

Tensions remain high

Cannon's order resolved one of several contentious issues between the parties in the case, battles that have caused delays in arriving at a firm trial date.

The judge has not been shy in expressing her lingering doubts about Smith's theory of the case at hand, suggesting this week that the indictment of Trump involves “still-developing and somewhat muddled questions.”

Her decision to address the issue of witness identities may have helped tamp down rising tensions between herself and the government prosecutors, though an order recently issued on another pending matter drew harsh criticism from Smith, who called it “fundamentally flawed.”

At the heart of that dispute was Cannon's request that both sides in the case offer competing examples of potential jury instructions, as NBC News noted, one which Smith found unacceptable.

“Nuclear” option imminent?

The aforementioned jury instruction disagreement was reportedly viewed by Smith as so serious as to prompt some to speculate that he may soon attempt to have Cannon removed from the case entirely, as the Post Millennial reported.

With Smith openly suggesting that if he found Cannon's decision on the matter lacking, he would be forced to consider pursuing her removal, Palm Beach County State Attorney David Aronberg expressed his belief that the special counsel was indeed “close to pushing the nuclear button” and moving forward in that manner.

Trump, for his part, did not appreciate the attacks on a judge he appointed to the federal bench, writing on Truth Social, “Deranged 'Special' Counsel Jack Smith, who has a long record of failure as a prosecutor, including a unanimous decision against him in the U.S. Supreme Court, should be sanctioned or censured for the way he is attacking a highly respected Judge, Aileen Cannon, who is presiding over a FAKE Documents Hoax case in Florida.”

The intensity of Smith's apparent frustration with the delays and adverse rulings in the case thus far is plain for all to see, but whether he will take the extraordinary step of attempting to boot Cannon from the case at this stage in the game, only time will tell.

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