Citing Trump's social posts, special counsel asks for juror protections election interference case

The request says Trump uses social media 'as a weapon of intimidation.'

October 10, 2023, 12:57 PM

Special counsel Jack Smith's team is urging the judge overseeing Donald Trump's federal election interference case to implement protections for potential jurors, citing the former president's conduct on social media regarding people involved in his various legal battles.

Smith's team specifically cites Trump's post about the judge's clerk in his ongoing $250 million civil fraud trial, which last week prompted the judge in the case to issue an oral order restricting all parties from speaking publicly about his court staff.

"There are other good reasons in this case for the Court to impose these restrictions and enforce this District's standard prohibition against publicizing jurors' identities," Smith's team said in Tuesday's filing. "Chief among them is the defendant's continued use of social media as a weapon of intimidation in court proceedings."

"In addition to the record before the Court from the Government's previous filings ... just last week the defendant escalated his conduct and publicly attacked the trial judge's law clerk in his pending civil fraud trial in New York State Supreme Court," the filing said.

This request comes as Judge Tanya Chutkan is set to hear oral arguments on the government's proposed limited gag order in the case on Monday.

Trump in August pleaded not guilty to charges of undertaking a "criminal scheme" to overturn the results of the 2020 election by enlisting a slate of so-called "fake electors," using the Justice Department to conduct "sham election crime investigations," trying to enlist the vice president to "alter the election results," and promoting false claims of a stolen election as the Jan. 6 riot raged -- all in an effort to subvert democracy and remain in power.

In a separate filing, the special counsel is asking Judge Chutkan to require Trump to formally notify the court of his intention to rely on advice of counsel as a defense, given that his lawyers have said publicly that's part of their legal strategy.

PHOTO: Former President Donald Trump addresses an audience during a campaign event, Oct. 9, 2023, in Wolfeboro, N.H.
Former President Donald Trump addresses an audience during a campaign event, Oct. 9, 2023, in Wolfeboro, N.H.
Steven Senne/AP

The special counsel says that at least 25 witnesses in the case have withheld information, communications and documents "based on assertions of attorney-client privilege."

If Trump were to formally invoke the advice-of-counsel defense in court, as has been done publicly by him and his attorneys, then attorney-client privilege would be waived and the special counsel would receive additional discovery.

The 25 witnesses, Smith's team says, include alleged "co-conspirators, former campaign employees, the campaign itself, outside attorneys, a non-attorney intermediary, and even a family member of the defendant."

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