US judge warns there are limits to what Trump can say about election case

The United States judge overseeing Donald Trump’s election interference case has said she will limit the evidence the former president will be allowed to share from his trial but stopped short of granting the blanket ban prosecutors had sought.

During a court hearing on Friday, US District Judge Tanya Chutkan addressed concerns that Trump could release evidence on social media. She told his lawyers that the former president’s defence “is supposed to happen in this courtroom, not on the internet”.She also cautioned that “arguably ambiguous statements” could be construed as intimidation or harassment of potential witnesses. “I will take whatever measures are necessary to safeguard the integrity of the case,” Chutkan said.

Prosecutors had sought a broad protective order barring the ex-president from sharing any details of the government’s evidence publicly, claiming that Trump — who regularly takes to social media to slam officials involved in the case against him — could use the details to influence witnesses.

But Trump’s defence lawyers had argued that a wide-reaching order would violate his right to free speech under the First Amendment of the US Constitution.

“Mr Trump, like every American, has a First Amendment right to free speech, but that right is not absolute. In a criminal case such as this one, the defendant’s free speech is subject to the rules,” Chutkan said during the hearing, as reported by CNN.

Chutkan agreed with Trump’s defence team on a looser version of a protective order for evidence in the case, but she largely sided with the prosecution on what sensitive materials should be protected.She later officially approved a protective order that will allow Trump to share any records that are already in the public domain or that he obtained independently. He is not, however, permitted to share other kinds of materials such as those arising from the grand jury or items obtained through sealed search warrants.

“He is a criminal defendant. He is going to have restrictions like every single other defendant. This case is proceeding in the normal order,” Chutkan said. “The fact the defendant is engaged in a political campaign is not going to allow him any greater or lesser latitude than any defendant in a criminal case.”

Trump pleaded not guilty on August 3 in a Washington, DC, courtroom to four federal charges related to his efforts to overturn the 2020 US election that he lost to his Democratic rival, President Joe Biden.

The case is the third criminal indictment filed against the former president since March.

He also faces state charges in New York over a hush-money payment to an adult film star and federal charges linked to accusations he mishandled classified government documents at his Florida estate.

Trump, who remains the frontrunner in the 2024 Republican presidential nomination race, has denounced all the cases against him as an effort to derail his re-election campaign.

“When you look at what’s happening, this is a persecution of a political opponent,” Trump said after his early August arraignment hearing in the election case. “This was never supposed to happen in America.”

Experts have said the 2020 election interference case marks the most significant of the three criminal indictments against Trump, with one expert calling it “probably the most significant legal case in the nation’s history”.

The indictment accuses Trump of pursuing “unlawful means of discounting legitimate votes and subverting the election results” in an attempt to scuttle Biden’s 2020 victory.

Related Articles

Back to top button