Jack Smith Moves to Muzzle Trump

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Special Counsel Jack Smith submitted a request Friday for a protective order “against the dissemination of discovery materials and the sensitive information that they contain,” in relation to the Justice Department’s criminal case against former President Donald Trump. The order would directly prevent Trump from disclosing evidence and materials shared with him and his legal team by the DOJ to the public.

Trump was arrested and arraigned in Miami on Tuesday on 37 criminal counts including violations of the espionage act, conspiracy to obstruct justice, corruptly concealing a record or document, and concealing a document in a federal investigation. The charges were brought by the DOJ as a result of their months-long investigation into Trump’s hoarding of classified documents following his departure from office.

As the case moves into discovery, Smith is seeking to protect materials that may be provided to Trump’s defense team that could potentially contain “information pertaining to ongoing investigations, the disclosure of which could compromise those investigations and identify uncharged individuals.”

According to the filing, “the government has conferred with counsel for Defendant Donald J. Trump and Defendant Waltine Nauta, who have no objections to this motion or the protective order.”

The order would require that materials provided to Trump’s team remain “in the custody and control of Defense Counsel,” and that the former president’s attorneys must securely store the materials and “make it clear that the materials are subject to the Order.” The order is likely explicit given that a significant portion of the government’s case against Trump revolves around the insecure storage of highly classified and sensitive information.

Furthermore, the order bars Trump, his co-defendant Walt Nauta, and his legal counsel from “[disclosing] the Discovery Materials or their contents directly or indirectly to any person or entity other than persons employed to assist in the defense, persons who are interviewed as potential witnesses, counsel for potential witnesses, and other persons to whom the Court may authorize disclosure.” This includes a direct prohibition against sharing materials with the public or media – including through social media platforms.

Trump will only be allowed to view materials “under the direct supervision of Defense Counsel or a member of Defense Counsel’s staff.” He may not retain any copies of what’s shown to him, and his notes must be stored “securely” by his lawyers.

The request is extremely similar to a protective order sought by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg in his own criminal case against Trump. The former president was arrested in April on 34 counts of falsifying business records in relation to his 2016 hush money payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels.

Bragg raised similar concerns over Trump’s potential abuse of evidence and discovery materials with Judge Juan Manuel Merchan in April. The order was granted in May.

Smith is also conducting a separate probe into Trump’s efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election. On Friday, the Wall Street Journal reported that Trump’s defense team may be seeking to block testimony given by his former Vice President Mike Pence from the grand jury’s decision on whether or not to charge the former president in relation to the probe.

Smiths probe has been expansive. In April, The Washington Post reported that the DOJ had begun exploring allegations that the Trump campaign defrauded donors by touting false claims of election fraud, as well as digging into efforts to subvert election results in individual states.

But a third criminal case against Trump is still a ways away. Sources tell the Journal that some of Smith’s questions to witnesses indicate the special counsel may be aiming to produce a comprehensive report rather than an indictment.

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