This week, Judge Aileen Cannon rendered a decision declaring the witness list in the Trump document case unsealed.
- Special Counsel Jack Smith is opposing the proposal to disclose the protected list to the public. •Legal experts informed BI Cannon that the decision is contrary to precedent and is probable to be reversed upon appeal.
Aileen Cannon, a judge nominated by Trump, once more concurred with the legal team of the former president this week when she ruled that the confidential government witness list in the Mar-A-Lago classified documents case should be unsealed.
Cannon stated in a filing on Tuesday that the public interest in the case transcends the current protective order that keeps the identities confidential, arguing that the Special Counsel has failed to provide a sufficient argument to maintain the seal on the names.
On Thursday, Special Counsel Jack Smith filed a motion for reconsideration in opposition to Cannon’s ruling. In his argument, unsealing the names, which are currently known to the defense but have been withheld from the public due to safety concerns and potential repercussions for the investigation, could discourage additional witness cooperation with the inquiry. Smith wrote, “The Court applied an incorrect legal standard, which will expose witnesses and others to intolerable risks.”
Witnesses and judges who are affiliated with the manifold civil and criminal proceedings against Trump have been subjected to substantial intimidation and threats throughout the course of the former president’s legal disputes.
Trump delivers remarks at Mar-a-Lago during arguments before the Supreme Court regarding a ballot case.
Even the jurors who voted to indict the former president and Judge Tanya Chutkan, who is presided over the federal election interference case unfolding in Georgia, have been accused of being threatened with physical harm by supporters of the former president.
Numerous legal experts have harshly criticized Judge Cannon’s decision to release the witness list in the case involving classified documents against Trump. Two legal experts have told Business Insider that her ruling will likely be overturned on appeal.
Neama Rahmani, a former federal prosecutor who has a “clear bias for Trump,” told BI that the decision is “another incorrect ruling by Judge Cannon.”
“It’s really one after another, and the way she’s handled this case shows her clear bias for Trump and the defense,” Rahmani asserted. “While it is evident that Trump chose her, he could not have gotten a better draw.” She has essentially permitted Trump to postpone the proceedings at every stage thus far; therefore, it is extremely unlikely that that trial will be concluded prior to the November election. Furthermore, in the event that Trump is re-elected and reclaims the White House, the prosecution will cease to exist.
In this case, the 11th Circuit has previously reversed Cannon’s motion to appoint a special master to supervise the review of classified documents seized from Mar-a-Lago on appeal. In the end, the 11th Circuit court rendered a decision in favor of the Department of Justice, which stated that Cannon was not authorized to appoint a special master to the case.
Andrew Lieb, a legal analyst and New York litigation attorney, told BI, “This is the second time that Jack Smith has petitioned for reconsideration of a Cannon order; the previous time, it was ultimately appealed to the 11th Circuit, which sided with Smith and gave Cannon a ‘bench slap’.”
Lieb further stated that unsealing the witness list or their statements serves no legal purpose, “because doing so endangers witnesses and may induce them to recant from providing additional testimony or alter their accounts out of fear, which is precisely the rationale behind the sealing process.” Additionally, it may impact prospective juries.
The precedent of protective orders Rahmani stated that, as expected, the list of testifying witnesses will be disclosed to the public at some point; however, the manner and timeline of information release are crucial. It is contrary to prior judicial precedent to release in advance the names of cooperating witnesses, not all of whom will provide testimony, in an effort to safeguard individuals who assist criminal investigations.
“Protection orders are in place for a reason, and the government has made it clear that this would jeopardize the investigation and endanger the witnesses,” Rahmani said, adding that, based on prior legal precedent, he believes the 11th circuit will reverse Cannon’s ruling.
He further stated: “I think judges rarely reconsider their decisions, so the motion for reconsideration will probably be denied — it’s pretty rare for a judge to change his or her mind — but I wouldn’t be surprised if the 11th circuit reverses Cannon’s ruling.”