Judge issues protective order in Trump's Georgia election interference case

The order comes after ABC obtained video from two proffer interviews.

November 16, 2023, 12:27 PM

The Fulton County judge overseeing the Georgia election interference case against former President Donald Trump and others issued a protective order in the case Thursday, following a request from District Attorney Fani Willis' office in light of the publication of proffer interview videos by ABC News and other media outlets.

Judge Scott McAfee, in his order, wrote that a protective order is necessary in the case to keep the discovery process flowing freely, and to avoid potentially tainting the jury pool with the release of evidence that may later become inadmissible at trial.

"The Court has an interest in ensuring that all parties retain their right to a fair trial before an unbiased jury, a process that could become unattainable should the public be allowed to vet every piece of unfiltered evidence months before trial," McAfee wrote in his order, also noting that the order would not "offend the First Amendment."

ABC News was first to report on portions of videos it exclusively obtained showing Fulton County prosecutors confidentially interviewing two attorneys, Sidney Powell and Jenna Ellis, who helped Trump try to overturn the 2020 election results in the state.

The Washington Post later reported on those proffer videos, in addition to videos of Kenneth Chesebro and Scott Hall, two other defendants who took plea deals in the case.

The protective order entered by McAfee was largely agreed upon by the DA's office and most of the remaining defendants in the case at a hearing on Wednesday.

The order is not a blanket protective order, but rather requires the state to designate which discovery materials they believe are sensitive -- and are thus protected from being made public -- and gives the defendants an opportunity to challenge that.

PHOTO: Republican presidential candidate and former President Donald Trump gestures during a campaign rally in Claremont, N.H.,  Nov. 11, 2023.
Republican presidential candidate and former President Donald Trump gestures during a campaign rally in Claremont, N.H., Nov. 11, 2023.
Brian Snyder/Reuters

Under the order, the DA's office has 30 days to inform the defense teams which prior discovery materials they are deeming sensitive, and they must include that designation in all remaining discovery productions. The defense has 14 days to challenge the designation.

Trump and 18 others pleaded not guilty in August to all charges in a sweeping racketeering indictment for alleged efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election in the state of Georgia. Powell, Ellis, Chesebro and Hall subsequently took plea deals to avoid jail time in exchange for agreeing to testify against other defendants.

Trump has blasted the district attorney's case as being politically motivated.

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