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Donald Trump, U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon, special counsel Jack Smith

Mar-a-Lago judge gives Jack Smith a tight deadline to make ‘red box’ redactions for releasing long-secret Trump motions

Left: Donald Trump (AP Photo/Mike Stewart, File). Center: U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon (U.S. Senate). Right: Special counsel Jack Smith (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

The judge overseeing the Donald Trump Mar-a-Lago documents case gave special counsel Jack Smith a Friday afternoon deadline to comply with a court order geared toward the public release of two long-sealed defense motions as well as exhibits associated with those motions.

In a paperless order released late Thursday, U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon acknowledged a sealed notice filed by federal prosecutors earlier that same day. The text of a prior order clues the public into the context behind what was likely filed by the government.

In a little-noticed order issued last week, Cannon directed Smith’s team to file “a brief notice indicating any final changes or revisions” to previously proposed redactions or sealing requests regarding two secret motions filed by former President Donald Trump’s attorneys.

While filed under seal, the court has identified those defense motions as a “Motion for Relief Relating to the Mar-a-Lago Raid and Unlawful Piercing of the Attorney-Client Privilege” and a “Motion to Dismiss Based on Prosecutorial Misconduct and Due Process Violations.”

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    The government, late Friday, filed a notice indicating they had complied with the court’s order and that the prosecution and defense “are in agreement that no redactions are needed” to the reply briefs filed in response to either motion.

    “Yesterday, the Government filed under seal (but not ex parte) a chart indicating areas of dispute between the parties regarding proposed redaction of those motions,” Smith’s notice reads. “There are a few additional redactions included in the red-box version submitted today that were not indicated on the chart … because the final red-box version submitted by defendant Trump yesterday inadvertently did not include these redactions that had previously been agreed to by the parties.”

    As Law&Crime previously reported, those redactions are meant to make two Trump motions — and their accompanying exhibits — legally palatable and sufficiently censored for public consumption.

    Now, Smith’s team is being given around 24 hours to submit a copy of their latest proposals for keeping certain information under wraps.

    “To properly consider the remaining sealing and redaction disputes, and to more effectively compare the parties’ positions in light of the developments in the parties’ proposed requests, the Special Counsel is directed to submit, on or before 3 p.m. on May 17, 2024, his own set of red-box proposed redactions to the cited motions and exhibits,” Cannon’s terse order reads.

    In last week’s order, Trump’s team was given a bit longer — exactly one week — to submit their own “proposed ‘red box’ redactions” for the two motions and the associated exhibits as well as “a chart/list indicating the bases for all proposed redactions.”

    In each instance, “the names of potential witnesses or clearly identifying information, ancillary names,” and personally identifiable information should be redacted, the court further ordered.

    Trump’s team filed a notice even later on Thursday, alerting Cannon that they had complied with last week’s court order.

    In their notice, Attorneys Todd Blanche and Christopher Kise wrote that he defense “filed under seal ‘red box’ redactions for two of President Trump’s pretrial motions and associated filings.”

    As previously reported, the motion seeking relief over the raid of the 45th president’s Palm Beach-based estate alleges the government unlawfully obtained evidence in violation of the attorney-client privilege and seeks either suppression of such evidence or dismissal of the indictment due to alleged prejudice.

    The motion to dismiss was filed — along with four other motions to dismiss filed publicly — on Feb. 22 and alleges the government engaged in pre-indictment delay and grand jury abuses.

    Those two motions likely contain a significant amount of information the government would rather not be made public.

    More Law&Crime coverage: The Trump Docket: Was Michael Cohen’s testimony a knockout punch for prosecutors and Trump’s best day in court — or just a ‘blow on the chin’?

    But Trump’s motions are not the only currently-sealed documents the Southern District of Florida is aiming to get out in the open.

    Last week’s order also referred to eight numbered, otherwise unidentified, docket entries which were the subject of an early May hearing where both parties made arguments for release and public access.

    In the original order setting the hearing, Cannon suggested at least one of those documents was filed under seal by the government.

    While the exact nature of those documents is necessarily unknowable, at least for now, the judge previously described three of those documents in general terms as “specific grand jury material implicated in this proceeding in light of the Special Counsel’s sealed status report” as well as “updates to pending disclosure proceedings in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.”

    A Monday deadline looms for those eight mystery documents.

    The court has previously given both the government and the defense until May 20 to “confer and jointly file a status report presenting their respective positions on continued sealing.”

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