In a routine court filing Friday night, prosecutors in special counsel Jack Smith’s office alerted U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Chutka, who was assigned to preside over Donald Trump’s latest indictment in Washington, D.C., to a threatening social media post the former president had made just hours earlier. “IF YOU GO AFTER ME, I’M COMING AFTER YOU!” Trump wrote on Truth Social.
The filing asked Chutka to impose a protective order over discovery evidence in the case, which concerns Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 election and disrupt the electoral count on January 6, 2021. Smith’s office, which also charged Trump in the classified documents case currently unfolding in Florida, indicted Trump with four criminal charges on Tuesday. The former president, who is currently a frontrunner in the Republican presidential primary, pleaded not guilty to all counts on Thursday.
The requested order would prevent Trump and his legal team from speaking publicly about sensitive information in the materials compiled by the special counsel’s office. A protective order is different from a so-called “gag order,” which would prevent him from discussing the case publicly at all. Smith’s office has not requested the latter, though D.C. federal court rules would allow Chutka to impose one.
In Friday’s filing, prosecutors claimed to have “a large amount of sensitive and confidential material” that it was prepared to send to Trump’s legal team. The material includes witness testimony, subpoena returns, and evidence obtained through search warrants.
Protective orders are fairly standard in criminal cases, but Smith’s office wrote that one would be “particularly important” in Trump’s case, as he “has previously issued public statements on social media regarding witnesses, judges, attorneys, and others associated with legal matters pending against him.” The request noted that Trump had already issued multiple social media posts that “either specifically or by implication” referenced the D.C. indictment, including the Truth Social post from earlier Friday evening.
Earlier in the week, Trump wrote on the social media site that “Dems don’t want to run against me or they would not be doing this unprecedented weaponization of ‘Justice.’ BUT SOON, IN 2024, IT WILL BE OUR TURN. MAGA!” Revenge and retribution have been favorite themes of Trump’s campaign: At his first rally in March, the former president said, “I am your warrior, I am your justice…I am your retribution.”
Smith’s office argued that if Trump “were to begin issuing public posts using details” from discovery, it could exert “a harmful chilling effect” on witnesses as the case unfolds.
An unsigned statement from a Trump spokesperson defended the Truth Social post as the definition of political speech,” and claimed it “was in response to the RINO, China-loving, dishonest special interest groups and Super PACs, like the ones funded by the Koch brothers and the Club for No Growth” and not in response to the D.C. case.
While prosecutors are hoping to start the trial before the end of the calendar year, Trump’s legal team has claimed that the “massive amount of discovery and information” in the case makes a speedy trial date impossible. Trump’s legal team is also expected to file a motion to move the trial out of the nation’s capital. Chutkan has said she will set a trial date on August 28.
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