Judge Criticizes DOJ for Delays in Trump Documents Case


The Florida classified documents case against former President Donald Trump is facing challenges for special counsel Jack Smith, both in terms of speed and consistency.

U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon, a Trump appointee, rebuked Smith in an order on Sunday regarding requests for redactions by parties in the criminal case. The judge indicated that Smith is inconsistent with his previous claims concerning grand jury secrecy and witness safety, a setback for the special counsel in a case already marred by significant delays on its way to trial.

“The Court deems it necessary to express concern over the Special Counsel’s treatment of certain sealed materials in this case,” Cannon wrote in her five-page order addressing the ongoing dispute over which information in pending pretrial motions should be kept confidential.

Although Cannon partially accepted Smith’s sealing requests, as she has done before, she took issue with the special counsel having “no objection” to fully unsealing previously sealed docket entries related to Trump attorneys’ allegations of prosecutorial misconduct. Essentially, the judge is concerned that Smith appears inconsistent by advocating for complete transparency only in filings that favor his side.

The special counsel’s office argued that it moved to unseal previously redacted docket entries to publicly counter Trump’s claims of prosecutorial misconduct. “Fair enough,” Cannon wrote.

However, the broader issue for the judge is that Smith’s office didn’t provide a rationale for why the special counsel couldn’t defend his office’s integrity while also maintaining the witness safety rules he has repeatedly cited to the court—rules that the Court has diligently tried to uphold in its multiple orders on sealing and redaction.

“The Court is disappointed in these developments,” Cannon added. “The sealing and redaction rules should be applied consistently and fairly upon a sufficient factual and legal showing. And parties should not make requests that undermine any prior representations or positions except upon full disclosure to the Court and appropriate briefing.”

While the core details of the dispute between Cannon and Smith remain unclear due to much of the case being sealed, the latest reprimand by the judge highlights the deteriorating relationship between the prosecution and the judge overseeing the case.

In the same order, Cannon also denied a request by Trump’s attorneys to redact several witness names from his motions. Trump had sought a motion to suppress based on the “unlawful piercing [of] attorney-client privilege.”

This isn’t the first sign of tension between Cannon and Smith. In February, the special counsel called one of her rulings to unseal a portion of witness testimony a “manifest injustice.” Now, Cannon is similarly criticizing Smith for reversing his own confidentiality concerns over certain filings, apparently to counter Trump’s prosecutorial misconduct allegations.

Earlier this month, Cannon decided to suspend Trump’s trial indefinitely from its original start date of May 20, a widely anticipated move as the case has become mired in delays due to various disputes over pretrial motions. It was a setback for Smith, who has been pushing for the trial to start well before the Nov. 5 presidential election.

Trump, who is on trial in New York for one of four separate indictments he faces, is accused by Smith of mishandling classified documents from his administration and of being uncooperative with government officials attempting to retrieve them. He has pleaded not guilty.

Kaelan Deese
Kaelan Deese
Supreme Court reporter covering the latest happenings at the nation's highest court and the legal issues surrounding Second Amendment rights, abortion, and religious liberties. He previously wrote breaking news as a fellow for The Hill during the 2020 election cycle. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma's Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communications program in 2019.

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