Washington: Donald Trump was warned against making “inflammatory” statements by the US judge overseeing the historic case against him for allegedly plotting to rig the 2020 election on Friday. She also stated that she would not permit a “carnival atmosphere” at his eventual trial.
At a hearing between prosecutors and defence lawyers held to determine what the former president can publicly say about the case as it moves towards trial, US District Judge Tanya Chutkan issued the stern warning.
During the 90-minute hearing at a federal courthouse in downtown Washington, Chutkan stated, “I will take whatever measures are necessary to protect the integrity of these proceedings.”
Chutkan said in remarks that were obviously directed at Trump and his attorneys that she would be forced to “proceed to trial quickly” if there were any “inflammatory statements about this case which could taint the jury pool.”
On January 2, 2024, nearly three years to the day after Trump supporters stormed Congress to prevent the certification of Democrat Joe Biden’s victory, special counsel Jack Smith has requested that the former president’s trial get underway.
It is anticipated that Trump’s defence team will ask for a postponed trial date. Trump is the current front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024.
At an August 28 hearing, Chutkan—who was chosen by former Democratic president Barack Obama—will decide when the trial will begin.Trump, 77, who has pleaded not guilty to the accusations that he conspired with associates to rig the 2020 election, was absent from Friday’s hearing.
The former president’s rights “as a criminal defendant” will be upheld, the judge said, but his First Amendment free speech rights are “not absolute.”
As the US Supreme Court has described, “a carnival atmosphere of unchecked publicity and trial by media,” Chutkan added, “I also take seriously my obligation to prevent.”
Prosecutors requested a protective order to limit what information Trump can publicly disclose about the witnesses and evidence in the case, prompting the hearing.
According to the prosecution, Trump wrote on his Truth Social platform, “If you go after me, I’m coming after you!”
Chutkan warned that she might have to step in if “even arguably ambiguous statements” were interpreted as an attempt to “intimidate witnesses or prejudice potential jurors”.
The judge ruled that Trump would be permitted to review sensitive documents without the presence of his legal team, such as transcripts of grand jury proceedings and witness interviews, but he was not allowed to photograph or copy them.
Chutkan’s statement that Trump has “shown a tendency to hold on to material he shouldn’t have” caused the courtroom to erupt in laughter as she made apparent reference to his on-going legal dispute in Florida over allegations that he handled top-secret government documents.
In multiple jurisdictions, Trump is being investigated for alleged criminal activity that occurred before, during, and after his presidency.
He will stand trial in Florida in May for the alleged misuse of classified information, and in New York in March for alleged hush money payments to a porn star on election night.
Trump is accused of conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, and conspiracy against the right to vote by Smith, a former war crimes prosecutor at The Hague who brought the charges against him in the documents case.
While in office, Trump was impeached twice: once for allegedly trying to get the Ukrainian government to gather political dirt on Biden; and once for allegedly encouraging the assault on the US Capitol in 2021.