The Obama-appointed federal judge who was tabbed to preside over former President Donald J. Trump’s upcoming trial on charges related to January 6 issued a protective order setting rules for the case in a hearing attended by the GOP frontrunner’s legal team.
On Friday, U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan ruled that the protective order be limited to material that the Department of Justice deems to be “sensitive” and not the far more serious gagging of Trump that was preferred by underhanded special counsel Jack Smith.
But she also did the government a favor by including witness interviews and recordings as among the “sensitive” materials that are restricted, “Disclosure of any of those materials creates too great a risk that witnesses may be intimidated” or that the jury pool could be polluted.
“The defendant has the right to free speech, but that right is not absolute,” Chutkan said at the hearing. “Without a protective order, a party could release that info to the jury pool.”
NEW: The Trump Protective Order approved today by Judge Chutkan is public
— Darren Samuelsohn (@dsamuelsohn) August 11, 2023
Prosecutor Thomas Windom argued that the more sweeping restrictions Smith wanted were needed to prevent the “improper dissemination of materials … including to the public.”
“The defendant has set forth an intention to set forth any information that they deem informative,” he told Chutkan. “Defense has broadcast their strategy, and that is not to try this case in this courtroom, and your honor should address that.”
While the judge was in agreement, she was hesitant to impose a more sweeping order, with Trump attorney John Lauro saying that the DOJ’s case was”extraordinary.”
“We are in uncharted waters, we have a defendant running for president and his opponent has the DOJ bringing charges against him,” he said.
“The fact that he’s running a political campaign has to yield to the orderly administration of justice,” Chutkan said, using an example that Trump might release evidence regarding his former veep, Mike Pence who is running against him.
“The defendant’s desire to respond to political opponents has to yield,” she said. “There are limits. This is a criminal case. The need for this case to proceed in a normal order means there are going to be limits on the defendant’s speech.”
“I caution you and your client to take special care in your public statements about this case,” the judge told Lauro during the hearing. “I will take whatever measures are necessary to safeguard the integrity of these proceedings.”
Earlier in the week, Trump blasted Chutkan and called for the trial’s venue to be shifted out of Washington, D.C. where he has despised by an overwhelming majority of the populace, a truly poisoned jury pool that combined with the left-wing judge’s anti-conservative bias, make the case a virtual no-win situation for him.
(Screenshot: Truth Social)
“THERE IS NO WAY I CAN GET A FAIR TRIAL WITH THE JUDGE “ASSIGNED” TO THE RIDICULOUS FREEDOM OF SPEECH/FAIR ELECTIONS CASE. EVERYBODY KNOWS THIS, AND SO DOES SHE! WE WILL BE IMMEDIATELY ASKING FOR RECUSAL OF THIS JUDGE ON VERY POWERFUL GROUNDS, AND LIKEWISE FOR VENUE CHANGE, OUT IF D.C.,” Trump posted on Truth Social.
“Even arguably ambiguous statements from parties or their counsel, if they can be reasonably interpreted to intimidate witnesses or to prejudice potential jurors, can threaten the process,” Chutkan added, threatening to expedite the trial. “The more a party makes inflammatory statements about this case which could taint the jury pool … the greater the urgency will be that we proceed to trial quickly.”
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