Jack Smith asks judge to bar Trump from making ‘political attacks’ in 2020 election trial

Jack Smith asks judge to bar Trump from making ‘political attacks’ in 2020 election trial

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Special counsel Jack Smith is seeking to bar former President Trump from making “political attacks” about his federal 2020 election subversion criminal prosecution at trial, urging a judge to prohibit Trump from claiming to jurors he is being selectively prosecuted and introducing certain other evidence.

“Through public statements, filings, and argument in hearings before the Court, the defense has attempted to inject into this case partisan political attacks and irrelevant and prejudicial issues that have no place in a jury trial,” senior assistant special counsel Molly Gaston wrote in court papers filed Wednesday.

“Although the Court can recognize these efforts for what they are and disregard them, the jury — if subjected to them — may not,” she continued. “The Court should not permit the defendant to turn the courtroom into a forum in which he propagates irrelevant disinformation, and should reject his attempt to inject politics into this proceeding.”

Special counsel Jack Smith speaks about an indictment of former President Donald Trump, Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2023, at a Department of Justice office in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Prosecutors’ motion asks the court to bar Trump and his lawyers from introducing evidence that suggests he is being selectively prosecuted, that prosecutors are coordinating with the Biden administration or that foreign actors interfered in the 2020 presidential election.

It further urges U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan, an Obama appointee who is overseeing the trial proceedings in Washington, to prohibit certain evidence related to the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot. 

Prosecutors are seeking to prevent Trump from placing blame on the National Guard or the D.C. mayor for the attack or claiming to jurors that undercover officers were present at the Capitol.

“Allowing the defendant to introduce evidence about undercover actors would inevitably lead to confusing minitrials on collateral issues, such as the identities and intentions of the alleged undercover actors,” prosecutors wrote. “For example, it may require the Government to introduce evidence to show that people whom the defendant alleges were undercover actors actually were his vehement supporters.”

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Trump is charged in the case with four federal felonies, accusing him of conspiring to subvert the election results. He has pleaded not guilty and denied wrongdoing.

The trial is currently slated for March 4, the first scheduled in Trump’s four criminal cases as he campaigns to return to the White House.

But that trial date has increasingly come into doubt as Trump appeals his presidential immunity and double jeopardy defenses. 

Trial proceedings are on hold until his appeal is resolved. But, set on keeping the schedule on track, prosecutors have continued to meet the various pre-trial deadlines currently halted, including Wednesday’s deadline to make any requests to exclude evidence.

Prosecutors’ motion comes after a bid from Trump to have the case dismissed, arguing he is facing a “vindictive” prosecution from a team determined to hamper his electoral prospects.

Smith’s team Wednesday said Trump has raised “wholly false claims such as the Government’s non-existent ‘coordination with the Biden Administration’ and other empty allegations.” 

And in another prior motion, Trump’s team asked for information on “informants and other undercover operatives” as well as unclassified assessments prepared by the intelligence community about the security of the 2020 election.

Chutkan had not yet ruled on those matters before proceedings in the case were paused amid his appeal on the immunity issue.

The last time Smith’s office pressed ahead with the original schedule, Trump’s lawyers chided prosecutors and said their actions were unlawful.

“Although the prosecution may wish to rush this case to an early and unconstitutional trial in hopes of undermining President Trump’s commanding lead in the upcoming Presidential election, it must nonetheless abide by the Stay Order,” Trump attorney John Lauro told prosecutors in a letter earlier this month.

“As such, we will not accept or review the present production, or any additional productions, until and unless the Court lifts the Stay Order. If the prosecution continues to violate the Stay Order, we will seek appropriate relief,” Lauro’s letter continued.

Trump’s immunity appeal is now proceeding in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, where the former president has asked a three-judge panel to toss his indictment. Oral arguments are scheduled for Jan. 9, and after the panel’s ruling, the appeal could then head to the full D.C. Circuit bench or the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court last week rejected Smith’s gambit to leap-frog the D.C. Circuit and immediately take up the issue to resolve it sooner, a tactic that would’ve sped up Trump’s trial timeline.

Rebecca Beitsch contributed. Updated at 12:38 p.m.

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