US justice department special counsel Jack Smith has warned that former president Donald Trump's "daily" statements risk tainting a jury pool in Washington in the criminal case charging him with scheming to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.
Trump's provocative comments about both Smith's team and 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 signaled their concerns about the impact of Trump's social media posts and Chutkan explicitly warned Trump against inflammatory remarks that could intimidate witnesses or contaminate potential jurors.
The posts continued on Tuesday both before and after the latest concern flared, 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 could be fair in his case. Later in the evening, he issued another post in which he attacked Smith as a "deranged" prosecutor with "unchecked and insane aggression".
The latest complaint from the Department of Justice underscores the extent to which Trump's social media attacks are testing the patience of prosecutors and also risk exposing him to sanctions from the judge, who last week set a trial date of March 4, 2024 in an effort to keep the case moving.
Trump has faced warnings in other cases, too, with a condition of his release in a separate prosecution in Atlanta being that he refrain from intimidating co-defendants, witnesses or victims in the case.
The subject surfaced again on Tuesday in a dispute over a filing that the justice department sought to make under seal that it suggested concerned sensitive information, with an accompanying redacted version to be filed on the public dockets. Defence lawyers objected, countering that they were entitled to time to review the department's filings and any proposed sealed exhibits.
But prosecutors said it would untenable for the court to take several weeks to decide whether "every ordinary filing that refers to Sensitive Materials may be docketed."
"Such a requirement would grind litigation in this case to a halt, which is particularly infeasible given the pressing matters before the court — including the defendant's daily extrajudicial statements that threaten to prejudice the jury pool in this case, as described in the Government's motion," the Smith team wrote.
Chutkan agreed with the Trump team that it should have time to respond to the Justice Department's filings and set deadlines for next week.
Trump faces three other prosecutions besides the federal election subversion case. He is charged with 18 others in a state case in Atlanta with plotting to overturn the results of the 2020 election in Georgia, faces federal charges from Smith accusing him of illegally hoarding classified documents and is accused in New York of falsifying business records in connection with a hush money payment to pornographic actress Stormy Daniels.