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Jack Smith warns about risks to confidential witnesses in Trump case

At issue is evidence prosecutors turned over to defense attorneys in the case over Donald Trump’s alleged mishandling of classified documents.
Jack Smith warns about risks to confidential witnesses in Trump case
Posted at 2:01 PM, Feb 09, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-09 16:01:47-05

More than two dozen confidential witnesses against former president Donald Trump face “significant and immediate risks of threats, intimidation, and harassment” if their identities become public, federal prosecutors have told a judge.

In response, U.S. District Court Judge Aileen Cannon in West Palm Beach, Florida put a hold on Friday’s previously scheduled public release of a trove of documents. Cannon has given Trump's attorneys until Feb. 23 to respond, meaning the documents likely won't be released earlier.

At issue is evidence prosecutors turned over to defense attorneys in the case over Trump’s alleged mishandling of classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida after leaving the White House.

Trump’s attorneys had asked that the documents be released, but they were not the only ones seeking to put evidence in the case into public view.

A coalition of media organizations — including Scripps News — had made a similar request seeking the documents under the public’s First Amendment right to access court documents.

The filings come as the existence of a criminal investigation into threats “over social media” against an unspecified witness in the case became public Wednesday in a separate court filing.

SEE MORE: Trump not immune from prosecution, federal appeals court rules

Citing a “concrete and palpable” risk to witnesses that “other judges have recognized,” special counsel Jack Smith is asking the judge overseeing the case to reverse a previous order that evidence in filings by Trump’s attorneys should be made public.

Prosecutors argue that not just the names be withheld, asking the substance of witnesses’ statements to the FBI and testimony at grand jury hearings be blocked because they could lead to the identification of witnesses.

The new filings from Smith’s team repeatedly complain that release will put witnesses at risk, including the FBI agents who searched Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate.

“The Court should not tolerate this barely veiled attempt to slide into the public record, by first and last name, the participation of over twenty FBI personnel in the search,” prosecutors wrote.

Trump’s legal team was not immediately available for comment. However, Charles Tobin, lawyer for the media coalition, provided Scripps News with the following statement:

"The court has already agreed, as the coalition of newsrooms argued, that it has a First Amendment duty to independently determine whether the government, or Trump, has met their burden whenever they ask to seal court records. The public interest in this historic prosecution demands maximum transparency."


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