Trump attorneys push back on protective order, say it would limit free speech

Trump attorneys push back on protective order, say it would limit free speech

Defense team says requested order is overly broad

By Michael Hernandez

WASHINGTON (AA) - Attorneys representing former US President Donald Trump sought to convince a federal judge on Monday to limit a request from prosecutors to restrict the types of evidence that can be shared with the public ahead of Trump's election charges trial.

In response to the prosecutors' request for what is known as a protective order, Trump's lawyers said the judge should narrow any such order to only cover "restrictions on sensitive materials," saying the order as requested is overly broad and a violation of free speech.

"The Court can, and should, limit its protective order to genuinely sensitive materials—a less restrictive alternative that would satisfy any government interest in confidentiality while preserving the First Amendment rights of President Trump and the public," the defense team wrote.

"In a trial about First Amendment rights, the government seeks to restrict First Amendment rights," they added.

Prosecutors on Friday asked District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan to issue the protective order to limit what Trump and his legal team can share with the public after receiving evidence ahead of trial.

Covered documents include grand jury testimony, witness information, and other evidence that will be shared as part of what is known as discovery, or the pre-trial phase in which the defense is granted access to evidence against their client.

Prosecutors sought the order after Trump posted an apparently menacing message on Truth Social on Friday, saying "IF YOU GO AFTER ME, I’M COMING AFTER YOU!"

In response to the filing from Trump's legal team, special counsel Jack Smith's office accused Trump of having "proposed an order designed to allow him to try this case in the media rather than in the courtroom."

"The defendant’s proposed order would lead to the public dissemination of discovery material. Indeed, that is the defendant’s stated goal; the defendant seeks to use the discovery material to litigate this case in the media," they wrote in a comparatively brief eight-page filing.

Trump continued to use the platform Monday to say Chutkan should not approve the order "because it would impinge upon my right to FREE SPEECH."

The former president was indicted last week by a federal grand jury in the Justice Department's long-running investigation into efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

Trump pleaded not guilty on Thursday, and his lawyers are expected to argue that his comments were protected speech under the First Amendment to the Constitution and that he legitimately believed his claims of election fraud.

Tuesday's indictment marks the third criminal case against Trump since he left office following another federal case in the state of Florida related to his alleged unlawful retention of classified government documents and efforts to stymy investigators, and a case in New York related to hush money payments to an adult film star.

But the latest indictment marks the most significant case against the ex-president to date.

Smith had been leading a longstanding investigation into Trump and his political allies and efforts to prevent President Joe Biden from assuming power after he won the November 2020 polls by 7 million votes.

The indictment repeatedly said that Trump "knowingly" sought to mislead the American public to ensure that the peaceful transfer of power to Biden would not occur and "pursued unlawful means of discounting legitimate votes and subverting the election."

"Despite having lost, the Defendant was determined to remain in power. So for more than two months following election day on November 3, 2020, the Defendant spread lies that there had been outcome-determinative fraud in the election and that he had actually won," it said.

"These claims were false and the Defendant knew that they were false. But the Defendant repeated and widely disseminated them anyway--to make his knowingly false claims appear legitimate, create an intense national atmosphere of mistrust and anger, and erode public faith in the administration of the election," it added.

The 45-page indictment charges Trump with conspiracy to defraud the US, conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, obstruction of and attempt to obstruct an official proceeding and conspiracy against rights. Six others are listed as co-conspirators but are not named.

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