Trump Prosecutor Smith Reined In by Judge Who Paused Jan. 6 Case

(Bloomberg) -- The federal judge overseeing the criminal election interference case against Donald Trump limited what prosecutors can do while the case is on hold.

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But she stopped short of holding Special Counsel Jack Smith in contempt of court and fining him as the former president had urged.

Smith must first get approval from US District Judge Tanya Chutkan to make new filings under an order she issued Thursday, another obstacle for the Justice Department in its quest to take Trump to trial starting March 4. It’s one of four criminal cases Trump is facing as the Republican frontrunner for the White House in the November election.

Chutkan put the the case on hold in December as Trump litigates whether he has immunity from prosecution. The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit is expected to issue a ruling any day on whether Trump is immune — with an appeal to the Supreme Court by the losing side expected to follow.

Read More: Trump Immunity Claim Gets Chilly Reception From Appeals Court

Trump has argued that Smith has violated Chutkan’s order pausing the case by continuing to submit briefs and file exhibits as part of pretrial information sharing known as discovery.

The ex-president’s lawyers asked the judge to order a hard stop on additional filings, hold Smith in contempt and assess monetary damages against him to cover legal fees for reviewing the filings.

Chutkan said her December order didn’t “clearly and unambiguously prohibit” the Smith filings that Trump complained about.

“The court cannot conclude that merely receiving discovery or an exhibit list constitutes a meaningful burden,” she wrote.

She said Trump’s defense lawyers will need to review each “substantive motion” filed by the government “in order to know whether they need to take further action,” which the judge characterized as “not a major burden.”

The case is US v. Trump, 23-cr-00257, US District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).

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