Estimated reading time 3 minutes 3 Min

New chief judge to oversee secret Trump proceedings

Jame Boasberg will inherit oversight of secret proceedings involving Donald Trump after becoming the chief judge of the US District Court in Columbia.

March 18, 2023
By Jacqueline Thomsen
18 March 2023

A new judge is taking over leadership of the United States trial court in Washington, inheriting oversight of secret proceedings involving special counsel criminal investigations into former President Donald Trump’s retention of classified documents and efforts by him and his allies to undo his 2020 election loss.

James “Jeb” Boasberg becomes chief judge of the US District Court for the District of Columbia, replacing Judge Beryl Howell as her seven-year term comes to an end.

The chief judge has sole discretion over sealed federal grand jury proceedings.

That means Boasberg will immediately take over responsibility for handling certain issues that might arise in the special counsel investigations involving Trump, who in November announced he was seeking the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.

Boasberg also would assume the same responsibilities if a grand jury is formed in a separate special counsel investigation into President Joe Biden’s handling of classified documents after leaving the vice presidency. 

Biden, a Democrat, is expected to seek re-election in 2024.

As chief judge, Boasberg is poised to rule on certain legal arguments raised in the grand jury probes, including efforts to restrict witnesses from testifying.

Grand jury proceedings are kept from public view.

In an interview, Boasberg declined to comment on his impending grand jury oversight duties. 

He praised his predecessor, saying the court was fortunate to have had Howell as its leader “in this very fraught period”.

“She’s led the court in a terrific way through COVID and dislocations, and she also has maintained a very cohesive court not driven by partisan divides,” Boasberg said.

Boasberg, an appointee of Democratic President Barack Obama, has served on the court since 2011. 

He previously was picked in 2002 by Republican President George W. Bush for the local DC Superior Court. 

Both times he was easily confirmed by the US Senate.

Special Counsel Jack Smith, appointed by Attorney General Merrick Garland in November to handle the two Trump investigations, is presenting evidence to multiple grand juries. 

At issue are Trump’s retention of classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida after leaving office in January 2021 and attempts to interfere with the peaceful transfer of power following Trump’s loss to Biden.

Another special counsel, Robert Hur, was named by Garland in January to look into classified records found at Biden’s home in Delaware and former office in Washington.

No sitting or former president has ever been indicted.

Boasberg, a tall and deep-voiced former member of Yale’s basketball team, is well-prepared to handle the cases and lead the court through the intense scrutiny any indictment would bring, according to fellow judges and his former law clerks.

More in Top Stories