Special counsel details threats against witnesses in Mar-a-Lago case in effort to protect their identities

Feb 9, 2024, 5:30 PM

An aerial view of former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida. Mandato...

An aerial view of former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida. Mandatory Credit: Steve Helber/AP/File

(CNN) — In a fight over keeping the identity of witnesses protected in the criminal document mishandling case against Donald Trump, special counsel Jack Smith this week detailed myriad threats against prosecutors, judges and other witnesses.

One threat against a witness has prompted a federal investigation, the special counsel’s office wrote in court filings.

“Witnesses, agents, and judicial officers in this very case have been harassed and intimidated,” they wrote, “and the further outing of additional witnesses will pose a similarly intolerable risk of turning their lives upside down.”

The focus on fears of witness intimidation and harassment highlight an ongoing struggle in cases against Trump, which have prompted discussion in court about curtailing the former president’s ability to discuss the cases in public to protect the proceedings.

The classified documents case, especially, has been surrounded by secrecy.

Judge Aileen Cannon, who is overseeing the federal criminal case in Florida, is considering the Justice Department’s concerns about witnesses as well as requests for transparency in the case.

So far, in the Florida documents case alone, Cannon, FBI agents, the judge who approved the search warrant of Mar-a-Lago, the special counsel, Justice Department prosecutors and witnesses in the case have all been threatened or intimidated on some level, prosecutors wrote. Possible witnesses against Trump are “routinely” being threatened in a way that could intimidate them from participating in the case, they added.

Earlier this week, the prosecutors revealed that “a prospective government witness” was threatened over social media, a situation that is now being investigated by a US attorney’s office. The prosecutors don’t want to disclose more about that investigation in court out of fear investigators’ work could be dirupted, they wrote.

Many possible witnesses in the Mar-a-Lago investigation are already known publicly given how many political aides and Trump company employees testified in the grand jury proceeding that led to Trump’s indictment. At least some of those are expected to be called again to testify against the former president.

“These risks are far from speculative in this case,” one filing said, adding that “a court’s duty is to prevent harms to the witnesses or the judicial process.”

“Those significant interests in maintaining confidentiality greatly outweigh the disclosure interests of the defendants and the public.”

Some of the witnesses are unnamed “career civil servants and former close advisers to defendant Trump.”

Prosecutors want to keep names secret of government personnel from the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) who discussed the documents Trump kept from them after his presidency, of a Department of Energy lawyer who wrote a memo about Trump’s security clearance terminating when he left the presidency, and of more than 20 FBI agents who were present at the August 2022 search of Mar-a-Lago.

“The Court should not tolerate this barely veiled attempt to slide into the public record, by first and last name, the participation” of the FBI personnel, the prosecutors said.

“(T)he defendants have publicly alleged, with no basis, that NARA was part of a government-wide scheme targeting Trump. There is no reason to publish the names of – and thereby unnecessarily expose to intimidation and harassment – numerous NARA officials who have only done their jobs.”

Other witnesses whose names prosecutors want to keep under wraps include individuals who had relationships with Trump or his co-defendants, aides Walt Nauta and Carlos De Oliveira, and a person who “provided sensitive information to the FBI about activity at Mar-a-Lago” leading up to investigators seizing hundreds of records in a search of the property in August 2022.

One witness, prosecutors say, declined to have his interview with investigators recorded, “citing the associated risks to him in ‘Trump world’ of doing so,” the filing said.

Another witness shared confidential information about the layout of the private residence at Mar-a-Lago, including where Trump’s son’s bedroom was located.

Trump’s lawyers have sought to make public the witness names and related information in the case, since they have included them in court filings. But the names are locked down under a previously imposed court order, and the Trump side needs the judge’s permission to disclose them.

Trump’s side said in a court filing that there’s “no compelling interest” in keeping the information sealed and no legal reason to redact the names.

Smith’s team has also accused Trump, in attempting to compel more discovery and asking for more time to file certain pretrial motions, of continually trying to delay the trial, which is currently set for May.

“Their objective is plain—to delay trial as long as possible,” prosecutors wrote in a filing Thursday in the case. “And the tactics they deploy are relentless and misleading—they will stop at nothing to stall the adjudication of the charges against them by a fair and impartial jury of citizens.”

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.


Soldiers carry the coffin of Ukrainian poet and serviceman Maksym Kryvtsov who was killed in action...

Stephanie Halasz and Ivana Kottasová, CNN

Zelensky warns ‘millions will be killed’ without US aid to Kyiv, as Ukrainian troop deaths reach at least 31,000

“Millions” could die in Ukraine’s war with Russia if US lawmakers don’t approve President Joe Biden’s $60 billion aid request.

10 hours ago

Kathy Brandel and her husband of 27 years, Ralph Hendry...

Sharif Paget, Chris Boyette and Polo Sandoval, CNN

Family of Americans believed dead after yacht allegedly hijacked in Grenada describe scene of violence

The family of two Americans who may have been killed in an alleged yacht high jacking in Granada hope the couple might be found alive.

11 hours ago

Police tape drapes the crime scene on a trail behind Lake Herrick at the University of Georgia in A...

Ashley R. Williams, Raja Razek, Priscilla Alvarez, Isabel Rosales and Jaide Timm-Garcia, CNN

Questions remain in investigation of death of Augusta University student found on UGA campus

As the investigation continues into the death of an Augusta University student, officials confirmed the immigration status of a suspect.

12 hours ago

Kenneth Mitchell, here in 2018, has died....

Megan Thomas, CNN

Kenneth Mitchell, ‘Star Trek’ and ‘Marvel’ actor, dead at 49

A native of Canada, Mitchell acquired more than 50 film and television credits over the course of his acting career. He was diagnosed with ALS in 2019.

1 day ago

Charles E. Escalera, 21...

Michelle Watson and Maria Sole Campinoti, CNN

Kentucky man arrested in connection with death of Campbellsville University student

A man has been arrested in connection with the death of a student at Campbellsville University in Kentucky.

1 day ago

Former President Donald Trump walks on stage during the 2024 NRB International Christian Media Conv...

Fredreka Schouten, CNN

Wisconsin ethics panel recommends criminal prosecution for a Trump fundraising committee

A Wisconsin ethics panel is recommending that prosecutors pursue charges against one of Donald Trump’s fundraising arms.

2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Mother and cute toddler child in a little fancy wooden cottage, reading a book, drinking tea and en...

Visit Bear Lake

How to find the best winter lodging in Bear Lake, Utah

Winter lodging in Bear Lake can be more limited than in the summer, but with some careful planning you can easily book your next winter trip.

Happy family in winter clothing at the ski resort, winter time, watching at mountains in front of t...

Visit Bear Lake

Ski more for less: Affordable ski resorts near Bear Lake, Utah

Plan your perfect ski getaway in Bear Lake this winter, with pristine slopes, affordable tickets, and breathtaking scenery.

front of the Butch Cassidy museum with a man in a cowboy hat standing in the doorway...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Looking Back: The History of Bear Lake

The history of Bear Lake is full of fascinating stories. At over 250,000 years old, the lake has seen generations of people visit its shores.

silhouette of a family looking over a lake with a bird in the top corner flying...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

8 Fun Activities To Do in Bear Lake Without Getting in the Water

Bear Lake offers plenty of activities for the whole family to enjoy without having to get in the water. Catch 8 of our favorite activities.

Wellsville Mountains in the spring with a pond in the foreground...

Wasatch Property Management

Advantages of Renting Over Owning a Home

Renting allows you to enjoy luxury amenities and low maintenance without the long-term commitment and responsibilities of owning a home.

Clouds over a red rock vista in Hurricane, Utah...

Wasatch Property Management

Why Southern Utah is a Retirement Paradise

Retirement in southern Utah offers plenty of cultural and recreational opportunities. Find out all that this region has to offer.

Special counsel details threats against witnesses in Mar-a-Lago case in effort to protect their identities