Photo edit of President Donald Trump. Credit: Alexander J. Williams III/Popacta.

U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon for the Southern District of Florida has demanded answers from the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Special Counsel Jack Smith regarding the classified documents case involving President Donald Trump. The order questions the justification for sealing certain documents and the legality of using an out-of-district grand jury for post-indictment hearings.

Judge Cannon wrote:

“The Special Counsel states in conclusory terms that the supplement should be sealed from public view ‘to comport with grand jury secrecy,’ but the motion for leave and the supplement plainly fail to satisfy the burden of establishing a sufficient legal or factual basis to warrant sealing the motion and supplement,”

Cannon has instructed DOJ Special Counsel Jack Smith to unseal two filings and provide a legal rationale for why a grand jury in Washington, D.C. is investigating matters related to this particular case. The Special Counsel previously stated that the documents should remain sealed to maintain grand jury secrecy, but Cannon’s order rebuked this claim, stating that the motion and supplement did not satisfy the legal or factual basis needed to justify sealing them.

Additionally, Cannon’s order raised questions about the legal appropriateness of using an out-of-district grand jury to continue investigations or to seek post-indictment hearings on issues pertinent to the indicted matter in her jurisdiction.

The judge’s demand came in response to the special counsel’s request for a “Garcia” hearing, which pertains to a potential conflict of interest. The issue at hand is related to attorney Stanley Woodward representing defendant Walt Nauta and others who might be summoned to testify in the classified documents case.

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