Federal prosecutors are investigating threats to possible government witnesses in the confidential documents case against Donald Trump, according to court documents filed this week.
On Wednesday, special counsel Jack Smith filed a motion to submit a sealed document that “describes in some detail” threats made against witnesses over social media and an ongoing federal investigation into the threats. The motion argued sharing all the details “risks disrupting the investigation.”
Federal prosecutors filed their initial indictment in the case in June 2023, describing how Trump took classified documents home to his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida after leaving office in January 2021. Instead of leaving the documents at the White House, Trump brought them with him and stored them in unsecured locations including a bathtub and on a ballroom stage, later refusing to cooperate with investigators seeking their return.
After Trump-appointed federal Judge Aileen Cannon rejected prosecutors’ request to keep details on the alleged threats sealed, Smith filed another motion Thursday arguing the details would reveal witness identities and statements they made to the FBI or the grand jury.
Sharing those details would result in exposing them to “significant and immediate risks of threats, intimidation, and harassment, as has already happened to witnesses, law enforcement agents, judicial officers, and Department of Justice employees whose identities have been disclosed in cases in which defendant Trump is involved,” the filing argues.
Smith stated the judge made a “clear error” in demanding he share unredacted documents.
Smith’s concern over unsealing the details about potential witnesses is warranted. Trump has dabbled in possible witness intimidation across the criminal cases he’s currently facing. In his federal election interference case, Judge Tanya Chutkan issued a protective order and warned Trump last August against intimidating witnesses or leaking sensitive materials shared in discovery after he posted “IF YOU GO AFTER ME, I’M COMING AFTER YOU!”
Trump also tried to head off Georgia’s investigation into his alleged election interference. “I am reading reports that failed former Lt. Governor of Georgia, Jeff Duncan, will be testifying before the Fulton County Grand Jury,” he posted in August 2023. “He shouldn’t. I barely know him but he was, right from the beginning of this Witch Hunt, a nasty disaster for those looking into the Election Fraud that took place in Georgia.”
Previously, when Trump’s 2016 campaign chair Paul Manafort was charged by federal prosecutors, special counsel Robert Mueller said Trump’s public attacks on prosecutors and teases of a potential pardon were attempts to influence a jury and lobby Manafort not to cooperate. (Manafort served time for conspiracy, obstruction and financial crimes.)
The filings are the latest in a back-and-forth between Smith and Trump’s legal team over whether the discovery process entitles Trump to know more about the specifics of the FBI’s investigation into his retention of classified documents after leaving the White House.
Such details include the prosecution’s questioning of witnesses about the FBI’s Mar-a-Lago raid in August 2022, which missed a secret room hidden behind Trump’s TV, ABC News reported.
Trump argued Thursday night that Smith should drop the case. “This would be a far bigger and better achievement than anything he has ever done,” he posted to his Truth Social account. He pointed to a report released by special counsel Robert Hur earlier on Thursday that concluded no criminal charges are warranted against Joe Biden in an unrelated confidential documents investigation.
“If Special Counsel Jack Smith wants to do good for our Country, and help to unify it, he should drop all Litigation against Joe Biden’s Political Opponent, ME, and let our Country HEAL,” Trump wrote.
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