U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan issued a protective order on Friday related to the massive trove of discovery materials Donald Trump and his legal team are expected to receive — as soon as Friday — from the government as part of special counsel Jack Smith’s Jan. 6 criminal case.
Throughout the hearing, where the parties made a case for what they would like the order to include, Chutkan largely sided with the defense but also made a point to emphasize that Trump is a criminal defendant first and foremost in her courtroom and that he will have restrictions like every other defendant.
“He is a criminal defendant. He is going to have restrictions like every other criminal defendant,” she said during the hearing.
She specifically noted that “inflammatory” comments about the case from the defendant would not be tolerated and will lead to efforts on her part to speed his trial as she wouldn’t want any potential jury to be influenced by his remarks.
“I caution you and your client to take special care in your public statements about this case,” Chutkan told Trump lawyer John Lauro during the Friday morning hearing. “I will take whatever measures are necessary to safeguard the integrity of these proceedings.”
Trump wasn’t present for Friday’s hearing and was represented by Lauro.
Chutkan also made it clear she is aware of the national spotlight on this case, repeatedly emphasizing that she intended to keep politics out of the courtroom.
“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.”
The bulk of the hearing was focused on figuring out the specifics of how the tranche of documents the defense team will receive from the government will be handled.
The defense asked that Trump be able to review sensitive material without a counsel present in the room.
“Defense counsel has a certain level of trust in the defendant that the government does not,” the government lawyer responded. “The defendant, when he only has the material to himself, could elect to photocopy or otherwise reproduce, take a picture of the sensitive materials. That risk is much lower when in the presence of [counsel] … He has shown a tendency to desire to hold onto material he knows he should not have.”
Eventually, Chutkan sided with the request to permit Trump to review sensitive evidence without a minder from his legal team, but added a clause to her order that said Trump would be required to review information without any electronic devices that can be used to make copies of the material.
The judge added that the defense team will be responsible for ensuring that any notes Trump might take while reviewing the evidence won’t include the “personally identifying information” of witnesses.
Chutkan also sided with the prosecutors who wanted to include “hundreds” of recordings of witness interviews and transcripts in “sensitive” materials that are barred from public disclosure.
Read the protective order here: