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Judge says Donald Trump’s free speech right ‘not absolute’ in Jan. 6 trial

The federal judge overseeing the 2020 election conspiracy case against Donald Trump said the former president’s First Amendment right “is not absolute” as she prepares to rule on barring him from talking about some aspects of the case.

U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan said Friday that Mr. Trump’s status as a candidate for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination will not affect her decision. 

“The fact that he is running a political campaign currently has to yield to the administration of justice, and if that means he can’t say exactly what he wants to say in a political speech, that is just how it’s going to have to be,” the judge said at a hearing.  “I cannot, and I will not, factor into my decision what effect it will have on a political campaign for either side.”

At the start of the hearing, the judge said that she plans to issue a protective order “as quickly as possible” on prosecutors’ request to bar the former president from publicly disclosing evidence. She also said she is prepared to rule immediately on some of the revisions proposed for such an order by Mr. Trump’s legal team. 

The former president’s lawyers say the request by special counsel Jack Smith is too broad and would violate Mr. Trump’s First Amendment rights.  

Mr. Smith told the court last week that the government is prepared to provide the ex-president’s lawyers with a “substantial amount of discovery,” but the judge must prevent Mr. Trump from “improper dissemination or use of discovery materials, including to the public.”

The protective order sought by Mr. Smith’s team has become an early flashpoint in the case accusing the Republican of illegally scheming to subvert the will of voters and cling to power after he lost to Democrat Joe Biden.

Mr. Trump has pleaded not guilty in his recent arraignment.

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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