Justice Department special counsel Jack Smith on Aug. 4 requested the federal judge overseeing former President Donald Trump’s case to issue a “protective order” in light of a social media post made by the former president.
The Aug. 4 Truth Social post by Mr. Trump said, “IF YOU GO AFTER ME, I’M COMING AFTER YOU!”
Following this, Mr. Smith urged U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan to “enter a protective order governing or restricting discovery or inspection” of case details, essentially restricting Mr. Trump from sharing case and evidence details publicly.
“Such a restriction is particularly important in this case because the defendant has previously issued public statements on social media regarding witnesses, judges, attorneys, and others associated with legal matters pending against him,” argued Mr. Smith in a filing (pdf), citing the Truth Social post.
“If the defendant were to begin issuing public posts using details—or, for example, grand jury transcripts—obtained in discovery here, it could have a harmful chilling effect on witnesses or adversely affect the fair administration of justice in this case,” he said, adding that such posts may influence jurors.
A spokesperson for Mr. Trump responded immediately to the filing implying that the post was not a retaliation against Mr. Smith’s charges.
“The Truth post cited is the definition of political speech, and 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,” said the brief statement.
[ZH: Judge Chutkan has asked for Trump to respond to the special counsel’s protective order request by 5pm Monday.]
The social media incident took place a day after Mr. Trump pleaded not guilty to the charges filed against him by Mr. Smith related to the 2020 presidential election.
He has been charged with four counts—Conspiracy to Defraud the United States, Conspiracy to Obstruct an Official Proceeding, Obstruction of an Attempt to Obstruct an Official Proceeding, and Conspiracy Against Rights.
Former President Donald Trump holds an umbrella as he arrives at Reagan National Airport following an arraignment in a Washington court in Arlington, Va., on Aug. 3, 2023. (Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)
Political and legal pundits have voiced their opinion against the latest indictment calling it a political persecution of a former president.
"The corrupt federal police just won’t stop until they’ve achieved their mission: eliminate Trump. This is un-American & I commit to pardoning Trump for this indictment," said 2024 presidential hopeful Vivek Ramaswamy in a statement to The Epoch Times.
Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz said in a Fox News interview that the indictments do not carry merit, but added that Mr. Trump will likely get a conviction in Washington because of the region’s political leanings. “I've read the indictment very carefully," he said. "There is no smoking gun.”
“I think he may lose in the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, but I think he will probably win in the United States Supreme Court, if they grant review, and they should grant review. When you have the president of the United States and his people going after his opponent in a political election, it has to be beyond reproach. It has to be without any problem. It has to be the strongest case in history," Mr. Dershowitz said.
"This doesn't meet that standard,” he said.
Mr. Trump has also raised concerns about not getting a fair trial in Washington.
The latest case “will hopefully be moved to an impartial Venue, such as the politically unbiased nearby State of West Virginia!” he said in a Truth Social post on Thursday.
In addition to concerns about the trial venue, Trump supporters are apprehensive about the Obama-appointed Judge Chutkan who worked at a firm previously in her career that also employed Hunter Biden.
Judge Chutkan also has dealt with cases involving Mr. Trump. In November 2021, she rejected the former president’s attempt to block the Jan. 6 House select committee from accessing hundreds of documents from the White House despite Mr. Trump’s claim of executive privilege.
The Latest Protective Order
Former White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham, who was turned against her former employer, said that Mr. Trump’s Truth Social post saying he will retaliate is similar to witness intimidation.
“I think it’s chilling,” Ms. Grisham said Friday in a CNN interview.
“Legally it doesn’t seem like it’s very smart, but how is that not intimidation? What other people are going to take a message from that?”
In the latest filing, Mr. Smith states that the government is ready to share with Trump attorneys case details provided the court issues a “protective order.”
“The Government seeks to provide the defendant with discovery as soon as possible, including certain discovery to which the defendant is not entitled at this stage of the proceedings. The attached order would allow the Government to do so, while also protecting a large amount of sensitive and confidential material contained within the first production that the Government has prepared and will send as soon as the Court issues an order,” he argued in the court filing.
Mr. Smith argues that the proposal is not “overly restrictive” given the “sensitive” nature of the documents.