Special counsel Jack Smith asked a D.C. federal judge on Tuesday to stop Donald Trump from harassing jurors before he has the opportunity to do so.
Smith cited Trump’s attacks last week on a judge and his assistant in the civil fraud case brought last week by New York state Attorney General Letitia James as one salient and recent example of Trump’s record of using social media “in an intimidating manner.”
There are still five months before the D.C. coup attempt trial is set to start; this is a strikingly early time for Smith to raise questions around jury selection and protection of their identities. But the move fits into a pattern which has emerged as Smith tussles with Trump’s attorneys in the D.C. and South Florida cases: federal prosecutors have spent time studying how Trump acts in the face of a threat, and are trying to preempt his behavior.
In this case, Smith filed a motion asking U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan for the District of Columbia to use a “written questionnaire” to examine jurors without forcing all prospects to appear in court, and to adopt what Smith described as “standard measures to protect the identities, privacy, and security of prospective and selected jurors.”
Per Smith’s proposal, the questionnaire would allow the two sides to remove a baseline of prospective jurors: those who cannot serve because of professional or other scheduling conflicts, and those who say that they cannot comply with the court’s instructions.
The content of the request is less striking than how Smith frames it, and the context he cites for making the ask necessary.
Smith homed in on Trump’s attack on Truth Social last week on a New York court assistant, in which he called her “Chuck Schumer’s girlfriend.” That prompted the judge to immediately issue an order barring parties in the case from commenting on court staff.
Federal prosecutors with Smith’s office characterized it as an example of “opposition research,” tying Trump’s attack to the political machine at his helm. In Smith’s characterization, that shows “cause for concern about what he may do with social media research on potential jurors in this case.”
Recognizing that Trump stands at the top of a political apparatus forms a key part of Smith’s argument. He reminds Judge Chutkan that Trump’s “supporters already had directed threats to the Court” and to grand jurors who returned an indictment in Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’ investigation.
The filing is the first of what will likely be many volleys as the two sides battle over how to handle a jury in a case where the defendant is one of the most well-known and polarizing people in the country.