A federal judge denied special counsel Jack Smith's request to seal the list of witnesses in former President Donald Trump's classified documents case, NBC News reported. There are 84 individuals who may be called to testify against him, including former aides.
Trump is accused of keeping classified documents that he was required to turn over to the government. He was charged with 37 counts after a raid at his Mar-a-Lago residence turned up 100 classified documents.
Prosecutors had asserted it was necessary to keep the names under wrap to prevent Trump from speaking or corresponding with the witnesses. However, U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon, the Trump appointee presiding over the case, handed down her decision Monday denying the request.
Cannon said prosecutors did not make a compelling case that this move would be necessary and that moves like sealing or redacting portions of the document would be adequate at this time. The judge said the motion "does not offer a particularized basis to justify sealing the list from public view," in her opinion, according to the New York Times.
"It does not explain why partial sealing, redaction or means other than sealing are unavailable or unsatisfactory, and it does not specify the duration of any proposed seal." Earlier this month, U.S. Magistrate Judge Jonathan Goodman compelled the former president to sign a bond certifying that he would only communicate with particular witnesses through his legal team.
The judge told Smith's team to furnish the list of off-limits witnesses to Trump, but even with Cannon's decision the full list has not yet been made public. However, it's likely to contain the names of many close advisers and aides to the former president, including those employed at Mar-a-Lago.
Media outlets, including the Times, have also filed legal motions to release the list as they believe it is "one of the most consequential criminal cases in the nation's history" at this time. "The American public's interest in this matter, and need to monitor its progress every step of the way, cannot be overstated," the filing from the media stated.
Cannon shot down the media's request, deeming it moot given her decision not to seal the witness list. How the list will be publicized is up to Smith, who may choose to release a redacted version or simply leave it up to Trump's attorneys.
So far, Trump's team has been mum on the decision. Cannon also issued another order Monday requiring Trump's attorneys to respond by next week to Smith's request to move the trial date to Dec. 11.
The judge also scheduled a July 14 hearing that will deal with the problem of certain secret information used as evidence. Under the Classified Information Procedures Act, both sides will have to hash out a solution to the prickly situation created by the nature of the evidence.
For his part, Trump has maintained his innocence from the start. Earlier this month ahead of the indictment, Trump took to his TruthSocial to express his anger and indignation.
"I never thought it possible that such a thing could happen to a former President of the United States, who received far more votes than any sitting President in the History of our Country, and is currently leading, by far, all Candidates, both Democrat and Republican, in Polls of the 2024 Presidential Election. I AM AN INNOCENT MAN!" Trump posted on June 8, The Hill reported.
"This is indeed a DARK DAY for the United States of America. We are a Country in serious and rapid Decline, but together we will Make America Great Again!" the former president added.