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Judge orders Trump to explain why he shouldn’t be silenced in Jan 6 case

A federal judge on Saturday gave former President Trump a short window to explain why he shouldn’t be barred from talking about evidence on the Jan. 6 criminal case. 

U. S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan ordered Mr. Trump’s legal team to detail why he shouldn’t be muzzled in the case by 5:00 PM on Monday. Judge Chutkan, a 2014 appointee by President Obama told defense attorneys they need to state their position on why Mr. Trump should be allowed to discuss evidence on social media and tv appearances. 

Her order came after federal prosecutors late Friday asked the judge to bar Mr. Trump from publicly disclosing some of the evidence gathered against him, saying a recent social media post could have “a harmful chilling effect on witnesses.”

In a court filing just before midnight, prosecutors urged U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan to impose strict rules barring Mr. Trump from discussing details about the case while his legal team reviews materials during the discovery process.

The filing cites a post by Mr. Trump on his Truth Social page Friday warning, “IF YOU GO AFTER ME, I’M COMING AFTER YOU!”

“Such a restriction is particularly important in this case because the defendant has previously issued public statements on social media, regarding witnesses, judges, attorneys and others associated with legal matters pending against him,” the prosecutors wrote.

Protective orders are relatively common in criminal cases, but prosecutors said it was “particularly important” in the Jan. 6 case because of Mr. Trump’s history of posting on social media. 

Mr. Trump was arraigned Thursday in Washington on charges that included conspiracy to defraud the United States and depriving citizens of their rights. He has pleaded not guilty and dismissed the allegations against him of “political interference” aimed at undermining his 2024 presidential campaign.

Prosecutors said that Mr. Trump had written “multiple posts” that mentioned or implied the case, including the one cited in their filings.

They warned Mr. Trump could disclose grand jury transcripts or other evidence obtained in discovery, which “could have a harmful chilling effect on witnesses or adversely affect the fair administration of justice in this case.” 

“All the proposed order seeks to prevent is the improper dissemination or use of discovery materials including to the public,” prosecutors wrote. “Such a restriction is particularly important in this case because the defendant has previously issued public statements on social media regarding witnesses, judges, attorneys, and others associated with legal matters pending against him.” 

A Trump spokesperson early Saturday pushed back on the filing, saying the post cited by prosecutors is “the definition of political speech” and “was in response to the RINO, China-loving, dishonest special interest groups and Super PACs.” 

Mr. Trump’s legal team will likely respond to the proposed protective order with a legal brief of their own, but it’s unclear when that will be filed. 

During Thursday’s court hearing, U.S. Magistrate Judge Moxila Upadhyaya issued a warning to Mr. Trump that is not typically given to defendants at arraignments.

“I want to remind you that it is a crime to try to influence a juror, or to threaten or attempt to bribe a witness or any other person who may have information about your case, or to retaliate against anyone for providing information about your case to the prosecution, or to otherwise obstruct the administration of justice,” she said.

If Judge Chutkan does issue the protective order, she won’t be the first to do so this summer. In June, a federal judge issued a protective order barring Mr. Trump from disclosing on social media evidence the government has amassed against him in a separate case accusing him of illegally retaining classified government documents.

A protective order was also issued in the New York case, where prosecutors say Mr. Trump falsified business records to cover up hush money payments to two women who alleged affairs with him ahead of the 2016 election.

The next hearing in the election case is set for August 28.

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