By ERIC TUCKER (Associated Press)
WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal prosecutors are seeking an order preventing Donald Trump from making “inflammatory” and “intimidating” comments about witnesses, attorneys and others involved in the criminal case accusing the former president of plotting to overturn the 2020 presidential election. .
Special prosecutor Jack Smith’s team said in a motion filed Friday that such a “narrow and well-defined” order was necessary to preserve the integrity of the case and avoid prejudice to potential jurors.
Prosecutors had foreshadowed their concerns about Trump’s verbal attacks for weeks, but Friday’s request marks the first time they have proposed formal action to curb speech that they say risks tainting the case and making workers judicial proceedings and witnesses live in fear of being attacked. The motion exposes what prosecutors say is a pattern of “false and inflammatory” statements about the case, as well as comments intended to intimidate or harass people he believes are potential witnesses against him.
“Since the grand jury returned an indictment in this case, the defendant has repeatedly and widely disseminated public statements attacking the citizens of the District of Columbia, the Court, prosecutors, and potential witnesses,” prosecutors wrote. “Through his statements, the defendant threatens to undermine the integrity of this trial and prejudice the jury.”
They said Trump’s rhetoric has already had an impact, noting how jurors in the trial of a man convicted of participating in the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol recently sent a note expressing concern that may have information about your identity.
If the order is granted, Trump would be forced to sharply limit the type of comments he makes about the case, even as he seeks to turn his criminal problems (the prosecution in Washington is one of four he currently faces) to his political advantage as he postulate. to win back the White House in 2024. Still, it was not immediately clear what sanctions Trump could face if he fails to curb his speech or how Judge Tanya Chutkan could enforce even a limited gag order.
Trump showed no signs of toning down his words, complaining about the Social Truth motion shortly after its introduction and repeating his claim that the FBI and Justice Department had been “armed.” He repeated his usual refrains that President Joe Biden was “crooked” and that Smith was “unhinged.”
“They leak, lie, and sue, and they won’t let me SPEAK,” Trump wrote.
Trump’s lawyers also oppose the request, prosecutors wrote in their motion, and a Trump spokesman said in a statement that prosecutors “continued to corruptly and cynically attempt to deprive President Trump of his First Amendment rights.” .
“This is nothing more than blatant election interference because President Trump is by far the leading candidate in this race. “The American people, the voters, see through this unconstitutional farce and will send President Trump back to the White House,” the spokesperson said.
Beyond the strict gag order, prosecutors also sought an order preventing Trump’s team from contacting residents of the District of Columbia to conduct surveys, jury surveys and focus groups without the judge’s permission.
The efforts to weaken faith in the justice system, prosecutors wrote, reflect his attacks on the 2020 election, which he falsely claimed he had won.
“The defendant now attempts to do the same thing in this criminal case: undermine confidence in the criminal justice system and prejudice the jury through derogatory and inflammatory attacks against the citizens of this District, the Court, prosecutors and potential witnesses. ” they wrote.
Among the statements cited by prosecutors in their motion was a post on his Truth Social platform days after the impeachment in which Trump wrote, in capital letters: “If you come after me, I’ll come after you!” He has also repeatedly alleged on social media that the case against him is “rigged” and that he cannot receive a fair trial.
And he has personally attacked the prosecutors who brought the case (calling Smith “deranged” and his team “thugs”), as well as Chutkan, the judge presiding over the case.
The issue came to light last week when the Justice Department revealed it was seeking to file a motion related to “daily” public statements by Trump that it feared would affect the jury. On Friday, Chutkan granted prosecutors permission to publicly file a redacted motion, with names and identifying information of people who say they were harassed as a result of Trump’s attacks blacked out.
Also on Friday, Smith’s team rejected the Trump team’s request that Chutkan recuse himself from the case. Defense attorneys had cited previous comments by Chutkan that they said cast doubt on her ability to be fair, but prosecutors responded that there was no valid basis for her to step aside.
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