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Trump’s comments risk tainting jury pool in federal election tampering case, special counsel says

WASHINGTON (AP) – Justice Department special counsel Jack Smith warned Tuesday that former President Donald Trump’s “daily” statements threaten to taint a jury in Washington in the criminal case accusing him of they planned to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

Trump’s provocative comments both Smith’s team and U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan — who is presiding over the case — have been a central issue since the indictment was filed last month. Prosecutors have repeatedly raised concerns about the impact of Trump’s social media posts, and Chutkan explicitly warned against Trump’s inflammatory comments that could intimidate witnesses or taint potential jurors.

The posts continued Tuesday before and after the latest concern broke, with Trump earlier in the day circulating a New York Post story about Chutkan on his Truth Social platform and openly mocking the idea that she might be fair in her case Later in the evening, he published another post in which he attacked Smith as a “messy” prosecutor with “out of control aggression and insanity.”

Tuesday’s complaint from the Justice Department underscores the extent to which Trump’s attacks on social media are testing the patience of prosecutors and the risk of exposing him to sanctions from the judge, who last week set a date of judgment of March 4, 2024, in an effort to keep the case moving. Trump has also faced warnings in other cases, with a condition of his release in a separate prosecution in Atlanta being that he refrains from intimidating the co-accused, witnesses or victims of the case.

The issue came up again in a dispute over a motion the Justice Department said it wanted to file under seal, with a redacted version accompanying it for public record. Defense attorneys objected, arguing that they were entitled to time to review Justice Department documents and any proposed sealed exhibits before they could be filed.

But prosecutors said it would be unsustainable to take a few weeks to decide whether “all ordinary files relating to sensitive material can be registered”.

“Such a requirement would stall the litigation in this case, which is particularly unfeasible given the pressing issues before the Court, including defendant’s daily out-of-court statements that threaten to prejudice the jury pool in this case, as described to the Government’s motion,” Smith’s team wrote.

Chutkan set deadlines for next week for additional filings, which he said could be filed under seal.

Trump faces three more prosecutions in addition to the federal election subversion case. He is charged 18 others in state case in Atlanta with a plot to overturn the results of the 2020 election in Georgia; Smith faces federal charges accusing him of illegally amassing classified documents; and is accused in New York of falsification of business records in connection with a hush money payment to a porn actor.


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