Federal Prosecutors and Former President Trump’s legal team are set to clash in court this Friday, as they discuss a protective order requested by special counsel Jack Smith in connection with the 2020 presidential election case. The order, requested last week, has ignited a dispute between the two sides. U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan will preside over the hearing, marking the first meeting since Trump pleaded not guilty to four federal charges the previous week. Notably, Trump’s physical presence is not required for the hearing.
The proposed order, put forth by lawyers from the Justice Department, aims to regulate the sharing of evidence collected by the government during its case against Trump. The case centers around allegations of Trump’s involvement in obstructing the transfer of presidential power. Federal prosecutors expressed the need to prevent any improper sharing or use of evidence, including making it public. They referred to a social media post by Trump as evidence of why this restriction is essential.
Smith’s team emphasized in their August 4 filing that if Trump were to publicly share details or information from grand jury transcripts obtained during the discovery process, it could negatively impact witnesses and the overall fairness of the trial.
While protective orders are standard in criminal cases, prosecutors argued that limiting the information available for public disclosure is particularly crucial in this instance. They pointed out that Trump has used social media to comment on individuals involved in legal matters against him.
In response, Trump’s lawyers contended that the special counsel’s team was infringing upon Trump’s First Amendment rights. They suggested that only truly sensitive materials, such as grand jury information, sealed search warrant data, and personally identifying information, should be shielded from public view.
The legal battle also saw Trump’s lawyers making a case for political bias, claiming that the prosecution was targeting him due to his role as a prominent Republican figure. They even drew comparisons to a social media post by President Biden, suggesting a political dimension to the prosecution.
As the case unfolds, Trump’s legal team intends to seek dismissal of the charges and a change of trial location. On the other hand, the special counsel proposed a trial commencement date of January 2, 2024, estimating the trial to last four to six weeks. Trump’s team has until August 17 to suggest an alternate trial date.
If the suggested trial schedule is approved by Judge Chutkan, the trial would begin just ahead of the Iowa caucuses, which serve as the inaugural event of the 2024 presidential election cycle. Furthermore, the trial start date would coincide closely with the three-year anniversary of the Capitol attack on January 6.