Federal prosecutors asked a judge on Friday for a protective order limiting what Donald Trump and his team can say about the criminal case against him, citing a social media from the former president stating: “IF YOU GO AFTER ME, I’M COMING AFTER YOU!”
A Trump spokesperson said in a statement late Friday night that the ex-president’s post was the “definition of political speech” protected by the constitution’s first amendment and that it did not have to do with the criminal case. Instead, it was directed toward interest groups.
Prosecutors’ request for the protective order came a day after Trump pleaded not guilty to charges that he orchestrated a criminal conspiracy to forcibly overturn his 2020 election loss to Joe Biden which culminated in his supporters’ January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol. Trump had also sworn in court that he would not intimidate witnesses.
In the court filing, the office of US justice department special counsel Jack Smith argued that the sought restrictions were “particularly important” in the case because Trump had a history of using social media to post statements “regarding witnesses, judges, attorneys and others associated with legal matters pending against him”.
Smith’s office requested that Trump’s attorneys be barred from sharing copies of grand jury interviews and other “sensitive” material handed to them as part of the legal process known as discovery. The office also asked that the protective order be imposed before Trump’s attorneys had a chance to weigh in.
The judge gave Trump until 5pm local time Monday to respond to prosecutors’ request.
Prosecutors warned that if Trump shared public statements stemming from discovery material, “it could have a harmful chilling effect on witnesses or adversely affect the fair administration of justice in this case”.
Judges in other ongoing criminal cases against the former president have warned him against his public comments. At a court hearing in New York in April, state judge Juan M Merchan told Trump to not make comments “likely to incite violence or civil unrest” after the former president took to Truth Social and alluded to potential “death and destruction” if he was charged with a crime.
Merchan, who Trump has called “a Trump-hating judge with a Trump-hating wife and family”, is weighing the state’s prosecution of the former president for allegedly falsifying business records to hide hush money payments to porn star Stormy Daniels.
Trump also faces federal charges in Miami for his alleged illicit hoarding of classified documents after leaving the Oval Office. Trump has pleaded not guilty to those cases as well.
The former president faces a possible fourth indictment in Georgia, where Atlanta prosecutors have been investigating his efforts to overturn the 2020 election results there. He could face charges of racketeering and multiple state election crimes, including engaging in a conspiracy to commit election fraud, the Guardian has reported.