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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Jan. 6 prosecutors ask for protective order, citing threatening Trump post

Former President Donald Trump at a rally in Erie, Pa. on July 29, 2023. Trump has a history of lashing out on social media at the prosecutors bringing criminal charges against him. (Maddie McGarvey/The New York Times)

By Alan Feuer and Maggie Haberman

The federal prosecutors overseeing the indictment of former President Donald Trump on charges of seeking to overturn the 2020 election asked a judge Friday night to impose a protective order over the discovery evidence in the case, citing a threatening message that Trump had posted on social media.

By mentioning the incendiary post in an otherwise routine request seeking to keep Trump from making evidence public, the prosecutors in the office of the special counsel, Jack Smith, were drawing the attention of the judge, Tanya Chutkan, to Trump’s long-standing habit of attacking those involved in criminal cases against him.

Hours later, Trump’s campaign responded with a statement calling the post “the definition of political speech.” The statement suggested that the post had not been directed at anyone involved in the election interference case, saying it was meant for Trump’s political adversaries.

The exchange of words began Friday evening when Trump posted a message on Truth Social, his social media platform, issuing a vague but strongly worded threat.


Shortly after, in a standard move early in a criminal prosecution, the government filed its request for a protective order in the case to Chutkan. Prosecutors noted that protections over discovery were “particularly important” in this instance because Trump “has previously issued public statements on social media regarding witnesses, judges, attorneys and others associated with legal matters pending against him.”

To prove their point, they included a screenshot of the former president’s threatening post from that same evening.

A short time after the government’s filing, Trump’s campaign issued a statement with no aide’s name attached, insisting that he was practicing his First Amendment rights.

“The Truth post cited is the definition of political speech,” the statement said, adding that it was in response to “dishonest special interest groups” and political committees attacking him.

That Trump is a political candidate exercising free speech is going to be an element of his defense in the latest case against him. Trump’s campaign Friday also posted on X, the site formerly known as Twitter, a 60-second ad describing the prosecutors who have considered cases against him as the “fraud squad” acting on behalf of President Joe Biden. (It includes New York Attorney General Letitia James, who has brought a civil action case.)

The ad is one of Trump’s most aggressive denigrations of the prosecutors, whom he has consistently denounced. He has also promised that if elected, he would appoint a “real” special prosecutor to investigate Biden and his family, proposing to eliminate the post-Watergate norm of Justice Department independence.

But the Truth Social post was more direct than his past comments, in a case where a key aspect of the indictment describes how Trump’s repeated and false public claims that he was a victim of widespread election fraud led to the violent attack by a pro-Trump mob at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

Chutkan, who was randomly assigned the case when the indictment was filed, ordered Trump’s lawyers on Saturday to respond with any objections to the government’s request by 5 p.m. Monday.

But that occasioned yet another dispute between Trump’s legal team and prosecutors.

First, John Lauro, one of Trump’s lawyers, filed court papers to Chutkan, asking her to push back the deadline to object to the protective order until Thursday. Smith’s team shot back, telling Chutkan that the government needed the order in place to start handing over discovery evidence and accusing Lauro of seeking to delay the process.

“The government stands ready to press send on a discovery production,” Thomas Windom, one of the prosecutors, wrote. “The defendant is standing in the way.”

By the end of the day, Chutkan denied the request for a delay, leaving Lauro to meet the Monday deadline.

Regardless of what the judge decides to do about the broader issues concerning the protective order, other judges in cases involving Trump have clearly warned him about using threatening language.

At a court hearing in Manhattan in April, Justice Juan Merchan, who is overseeing Trump’s state prosecution on charges stemming from a hush-money payment to a porn actress, warned the former president to refrain from making comments that were “likely to incite violence or civil unrest.”

Merchan’s admonition came after Trump posted on Truth Social saying that “death and destruction” could follow if he were charged in the case in Manhattan.

That same month, Judge Lewis Kaplan, who was presiding over a federal rape and defamation lawsuit filed by writer E. Jean Carroll against Trump, told the former president to stop posting messages about the case. The ones he had already written were “entirely inappropriate,” the judge said.

Trump had derided the case on social media as a “scam” and personally mocked Carroll.

Trump has often ignored such warnings and continued to post threatening or spiteful messages with impunity.

After the hearing in front of Merchan, Trump returned to Florida and to his customary practice, calling the district attorney who brought the New York charges against him, Alvin Bragg, a “criminal,” and Merchan “a Trump-hating judge with a Trump-hating wife and family.”

Days after Kaplan’s admonition, Trump attacked him too, sayion a trip to one of his golf courses in Ireland that the judge was “extremely hostile.”

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1 Comment

Quintan Barnes
Quintan Barnes
Sep 29, 2023

"The Jan. 6 prosecutors' request for a protective order underscores the seriousness of the situation surrounding the events. Threats, especially those against public figures, demand stringent measures for justice. For intriguing perspectives on legal matters and social issues, explore content from celebrities click here. Their insights might shed light on the broader implications of such cases."

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