Special counsel asks court for ‘narrow’ restrictions on Trump’s statements

The Justice Department is asking the judge overseeing Donald Trump’s federal election fraud trial to impose some limitations on the former president’s public comments, saying he is seeking to undermine the criminal justice system with his incendiary rhetoric.

“The defendant’s repeated, inflammatory public statements regarding the District of Columbia, the Court, prosecutors, and potential witnesses are substantially likely to materially prejudice the jury pool, create fear among potential jurors, and result in threats or harassment to individuals he singles out,” prosecutors said.

The request was made under seal earlier this month; a redacted version was published late Friday. Trump opposes the request, according to the government.

It is one of two court filings unsealed Friday in which the Justice Department expressed concern that Trump was imperiling the judicial process through his public comments — once again highlighting challenges the special counsel faces in prosecuting someone who is both a defendant and presidential candidate.

Prosecutors said they are not asking Judge Tanya S. Chutkan to keep Trump from quoting public court records or declaring his innocence. But the “limited” order they request would bar specific statements about witnesses, as well as any “disparaging and inflammatory, or intimidating” comments about anyone involved in the case, including potential jurors.

Chutkan, the focus of some of those attacks, has imposed a standard protective order governing sensitive case material but not any other limitation on public commentary. Legal experts say she will face a difficult task crafting guardrails for an active candidate for the presidency. One of his primary rivals, former vice president Mike Pence, is also a likely witness for the prosecution, and advisers say they see only political benefit for Trump in testing the boundaries of any court-imposed rules.

Prosecutors say Trump is making inappropriate comments on a “near-daily basis.” Examples given in the 19-page filing include Truth Social posts in which Trump called Smith “deranged” and his fellow prosecutors “thugs,” Chutkan a “fraud,” Pence “delusional,” and D.C. “filthy and crime ridden.” Prosecutors also cited a message in which Trump simply wrote, the day after his arraignment, “IF YOU GO AFTER ME, I’M COMING AFTER YOU!

Prosecutors stay Trump is not just using epithets but spreading falsehoods, highlighting an instance in which Trump claimed that Smith inappropriately met with White House officials before the Florida indictment charging Trump with mishandling classified information. In fact, the government said, Trump “well knows” from the documents he has received in that case that a prosecutor from Smith’s office “conducted a routine investigative interview of a career military official at that official’s duty station — the White House.” That person worked for both the Trump and Biden administrations and was being questioned about Trump’s handling of boxes, people familiar with the matter have said.

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