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Judge says witness list in Trump documents case will not be sealed

Trump playing victim on campaign trail
Trump casting himself as victim on campaign trail in appeal to Republicans 08:00

A federal judge denied the Justice Department's attempt to keep secret the list of 84 potential witnesses with whom former President Donald Trump is barred from discussing his historic federal criminal case.

Judge Aileen Cannon ruled that prosecutors had not explained why the list had to remain sealed from public view. However, she also said in an order Monday that the list may not have to be filed on the public docket at all, leaving open the possibility that those names may never be made public. Her order also allows the special counsel's team to resubmit its request. 

A group of two dozen news organizations, including CBS News, had argued Monday the list should be made public in a federal court filing.

Attorneys for the news outlets wrote that "full transparency—at every step of this historic case—is essential."

"Without it, public confidence in the integrity of these proceedings specifically and the judicial system at large will suffer, perhaps irreversibly," wrote the coalition's attorneys.

Trump was given the list on June 22. During his arraignment in Miami, on June 13, a judge ordered as a so-called special condition of his bond that he not communicate with certain potential witnesses identified by prosecutors. He and his co-defendant, aide Waltine Nauta, have entered not guilty pleas to felony charges related to alleged mishandling of classified documents.

The coalition's attorneys said the list represents "a highly significant initial step in this extraordinary prosecution."

"The list is not trivial to the process or the Defendant. In fact, along with the public Indictment, it reflects a turning point from the secrecy of the Grand Jury investigation to the public administration of justice involving the highest level of power in American Government," they wrote.

In a June 23 motion requesting to seal the list, a special counsel prosecutor wrote that the office has conferred with Trump's defense attorneys, who take "no position" on the matter, but reserve "the right to object to the special condition and the manner in which it was implemented."

Trump attorney Todd Blanche said at Trump's arraignment that he was opposed to the special condition.

"I don't believe it's necessary or appropriate in this case," Blanche said at the time. 

Trial in the case is currently scheduled for Aug. 14, but the special counsel asked in a separate filing on June 23 for that date to be delayed nearly two months, to Dec. 11. The filing noted that it might take up to 60 days before defense attorneys obtain the necessary security clearances to view certain evidence in the case. 

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