Special counsel Jack Smith is facing intense scrutiny from U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon in the case concerning former President Donald Trump’s alleged mishandling of classified documents. Judge Cannon, who was appointed by Trump, issued a fiery directive expressing her concerns about how Smith has managed sealed materials.

Smith, who is leading the prosecution against Trump, is in conflict with Judge Aileen Cannon over his request to maintain confidentiality of certain information. Cannon’s criticisms became public after a court filing on Sunday, where she expressed concerns about Smith’s methods in handling the secrecy of grand jury proceedings and witness protections.

“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 Sunday ruling. Central to the controversy is the Special Counsel’s request for redactions in the public filings aimed at protecting sensitive details and safeguarding the interests of the justice system. However, recent rulings by Cannon have pushed back against these requests.

“In response to those inquiries, counsel explained that the Special Counsel took the position on unsealing in order to publicly and transparently refute defense allegations of prosecutorial misconduct raised. In addition, subject to further unsealing as becomes necessary, this Order marks the resolution of the limited disclosure issues transferred to this Court by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia,” her ruling stated. “The Court also notes that the Superseding Indictment contains numerous quotes from grand jury testimony, the balance of which the Special Counsel continues to maintain require sealing.”

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“Fair enough. But nowhere in that explanation is there any basis to conclude that the Special Counsel could not have defended the integrity of his Office while simultaneously preserving the witness-safety and Rule6(e) concerns he has repeatedly told the Court, and maintains to this day, are of serious consequence, and which the Court has endeavored with diligence to accommodate in its multiple Orders on sealing/redaction,” Cannon wrote.

Smith, who initially advocated for unsealing certain documents, is now asking Judge Cannon to keep these details confidential. Initially, both Smith and the defense had agreed to make the documents public in order to address allegations of prosecutorial misconduct in pretrial motions. However, Smith’s recent reversal has not only confused observers but also visibly frustrated Judge Cannon, adding another layer of complexity to the case.

“The Court is disappointed in these developments. 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,” Cannon noted.

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