Federal Judge Delivers Several Blows Against DOJ Special Counsel in Trump Classified Docs Case

The federal judge that is overseeing the classified documents case against former President Donald Trump delivered several blows to the efforts of Special Counsel Jack Smith in a brief Monday.

Judge Aileen Cannon of the Florida Southern District — presiding over the case that stems from a Miami grand jury’s June indictment of Trump — denied the request by the Department of Justice (DOJ) for sealed filings, and struck two from the record. Cannon requested additional information from prosecutors regarding the continued use of an out-of-state grand jury to investigate the case. 

“The Special Counsel states in conclusory terms that the supplement should be sealed from public view ‘to comport with grand jury secrecy,’ but the motion for leave and the supplement plainly fail to satisfy the burden of establishing a sufficient legal or factual basis to warrant sealing the motion and supplement,” wrote Cannon, denying the DOJ’s request in the brief.

“Among other topics as raised in the Motion, the response shall address the legal propriety of using an out-of-district grand jury proceedings to continue to investigate and/or to seek post-indictment hearings on matters pertinent to the instant indicted matter in this district,” Cannon continued in the brief.

The Monday filing came in response to the special counsel’s request for a hearing to examine potential conflicts of interest of defense attorney Stanley Woodward. Woodward represents Waltine Nauta, an aide to Trump listed as a co-defendant in the case. He also represents three people who may be called to testify in the case.

Cannon gave until August 17 for Nauta’s counsel to file a response to the motion for a hearing. She gave prosecutors until August 22 to file a brief in support of the hearing. 

Most recent action comes about nine months before the trial is scheduled

The most recent action in the case comes about nine months before the scheduled trial. Previously, Cannon set the case to go to trial on May 20, 2024, in the midst of the GOP presidential primaries.

Trump is facing 37 counts, including conspiracy to obstruct justice and making false statements and willful retention of national defense information. The former president pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Nauta is charged with six counts including conspiracy to obstruct justice. He also pleaded not guilty. Carlos De Oliveira, a third defendant and property manager at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence in Palm Beach, Florida, is accused by the special counsel of working with Trump to hide security footage.

“Adherence to the rule of law is a bedrock principle of the Department of Justice. And our nation’s commitment to the rule of law sets an example for the world,” said Smith June 9. “We have one set of laws in this country, and they apply to everyone. Applying those laws, collecting facts, that’s what determines the outcome of an investigation, nothing more, nothing less.”

“The prosecutors in my office are among the most talented and experienced in the Department of Justice,” Smith continued. “They have investigated this case, hewing to the highest ethical standards. And they will continue to do so as this case proceeds.”