U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan warned Donald Trump and his attorney Friday that repeated “inflammatory” statements about his latest criminal prosecution would force her to speed his trial on charges related to his bid to subvert the 2020 election.
“I caution you and your client to take special care in your public statements about this case,” Chutkan told Trump lawyer John Lauro during a hearing. “I will take whatever measures are necessary to safeguard the integrity of these proceedings.”
Chutkan’s stark admonition came at the conclusion of her first courtroom session in the newest criminal case against the former president. The aim of the hearing was for special counsel Jack Smith’s prosecutors and Trump’s attorneys to hash out disputes about the handling of evidence in the case. Once Chutkan enters a so-called “protective order” governing evidence, prosecutors say they’re prepared to share millions of pages of documents with Trump’s team, jumpstarting the case and setting it on a path to trial.
But Chutkan, aware of the national spotlight on her oversight of the explosive case, repeatedly emphasized that she intended to keep politics out of the courtroom and treat Trump like any other criminal defendant. That included potential consequences if he makes statements that could be construed as harassing or threatening witnesses.
“The fact that he’s running a political campaign has to yield to the orderly administration of justice,” Chutkan said. “If that means he can’t say exactly what he wants to say about witnesses in this case, that’s how it has to be.”
“Even arguably ambiguous statements from parties or their counsel, if they can be reasonably interpreted to intimidate witnesses or to prejudice potential jurors, can threaten the process,” Chutkan added later. “The more a party makes inflammatory statements about this case which could taint the jury pool … the greater the urgency will be that we proceed to trial quickly.” [Continue reading…]