Aileen Cannon Made ‘Problematic’ Exception In Latest Ruling: Attorney

Gun Rights

U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon, who is presiding over Donald Trump‘s classified documents case in Florida, made a “problematic” exception in her latest ruling, according to a former U.S. attorney.

Writing in her Civil Discourse blog, Joyce Vance, a former U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama and frequent Trump critic, said that by refusing Trump’s proposal to redact witness statements in the case, she was putting witnesses at risk.

On Sunday, Cannon issued a ruling stating, “The Court does not authorize Defendant Trump’s proposed redactions to witness statements in Exhibit 9.”

Vance, who was appointed as a federal prosecutor by former President Barack Obama, said that while “this may sound innocuous or even like it’s a ruling in the government’s favor,” the ruling was “particularly problematic” because revealing a witness testimony might expose them and put them at risk.

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Donald Trump speaks during the NRA ILA Leadership Forum at the National Rifle Association (NRA) Annual Meeting & Exhibits at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center on May 18, 2024, in Dallas, Texas. The judge…
Donald Trump speaks during the NRA ILA Leadership Forum at the National Rifle Association (NRA) Annual Meeting & Exhibits at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center on May 18, 2024, in Dallas, Texas. The judge overseeing his classified documents case has made a “problematic” ruling, according to Joyce Vance.

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Cannon, who was appointed by the former president, in the ruling also granted Department of Justice special counsel Jack Smith‘s request that materials in the case that both parties want to be redacted will be redacted from the court’s public docket to protect grand jury secrecy and witness safety.

Vance wrote: “The Judge has already agreed to redact witnesses’ names from the motion because they would be exposed to risk if they were made public. Judge Cannon, as a former federal prosecutor, and based on specific arguments prosecutors made here, should understand that even when a name is withheld, revealing a witness’s testimony can be sufficient to identify them. She seems okay with that, though. That’s unacceptable in a case with a defendant like Trump.”

Cannon also ruled that where parties disagreed about whether to redact the material because of Trump’s claims of attorney-client privilege, she would accept it as privileged, pending reviews.

In June 2023, Trump was charged with retaining national defense information, including U.S. nuclear secrets and plans for U.S. military retaliation in the event of an attack, and obstructing the government’s efforts to retrieve them. Prosecutors have said he took the documents after leaving the White House in 2021 and resisted repeated requests by federal officials to return them all.

Newsweek contacted a representative for Trump by email to comment on this story.

Cannon has long faced criticism and calls to recuse herself from the case for making a number of decisions that some say have favored the former president.

Earlier this month, for instance, Cannon indefinitely suspended the start of the trial while other legal disputes related to the case are settled. Vance said that Cannon delayed the case because “the Judge seems to have no appetite for justice in this matter.”

Speaking to Newsweek on Monday morning, Matthew Mangino, a former district attorney in Lawrence County, Pennsylvania, said he disagreed with Vance’s take on the most recent ruling.

“I disagree. The special counsel could argue that the publication of the statements alone could expose an unidentified witness to harassment, based on the substance of the statement. Here, Trump’s defense team has asked the statement be redacted,” he said. “The judge will permit Trump to only redact the witness’ name. Apparently, the government has no problem with the statements being public.”

Update 5/20/24, 9:34 a.m. ET: This article has been updated with comment from Mangino.

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Newsweek is committed to challenging conventional wisdom and finding connections in the search for common ground.

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