Special counsel requests Trump be banned from talking about witnesses or evidence in Jan. 6 federal case

Former U.S. President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a South Dakota Republican party rally in Rapid City, South Dakota, U.S. September 8, 2023. 

Jonathan Ernst | Reuters

WASHINGTON — Special counsel Jack Smith on Friday asked a federal judge to bar former President Donald Trump from publicly discussing the testimony and credibility of potential witnesses or the evidence in his federal election interference trial in D.C.

The request came in the form of a motion that laid out many of the 2024 Republican presidential front-runner’s most aggressive social media posts in recent months. They included posts where Trump took aim at likely witnesses, including former Vice President Mike Pence, as well as the judge presiding over the case and the U.S. attorneys prosecuting him.

“The defendant knows that when he publicly attacks individuals and institutions, he inspires others to perpetrate threats and harassment against his targets,” prosecutors wrote.

Since he was indicted, they wrote, Trump has “spread disparaging and inflammatory public posts on Truth Social on a near-daily basis regarding the citizens of the District of Columbia, the Court, prosecutors, and prospective witnesses.”

The only solution, the special counsel argued, was for U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan to issue an order holding Trump to the same standards to which his lawyers were being held.

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Under their proposed fix, Trump would be prohibited from making public statements about “‘the identity, testimony, or credibility of prospective witnesses’ and the ‘merits of the case or the evidence in the case.'”

Smith argued that this would amount to a “narrow, well-defined restriction.” But if Trump’s past statements are any indication, such a ruling could effectively render a wide range of statements Trump might make in the future about the case in violation of the order, and could leave him exposed to additional charges.

By the same token, abiding by such an order, if the judge were to issue it, could significantly alter what Trump says on his social media platform, Truth Social, and at campaign rallies, where he frequently disparages Smith, judges and witnesses.

Trump’s presidential campaign was quick to respond to the motion, accusing prosecutors of “corruptly and cynically continuing to 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,” campaign spokesman Steve Cheung said in a statement.

This is breaking news. Please check back for updates.

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