Friday was a day of conflicting results for erstwhile President Donald Trump.
In the end, U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan, who is overseeing special counsel Jack Smith’s ongoing 2020 election interference case against Trump, concurred with Trump’s defense attorneys on a crucial issue.
In particular, Trump’s legal team argued that the prosecutors’ demand that the former president be effectively muzzled was excessive.
The Associated Press reports that on August 4, prosecutors asked Chutkan to issue a protective order for case-related evidence.
At the time, they argued that Trump could wield outsized influence if he were to post on social media about “witnesses, judges, attorneys, and others associated with legal matters pending against him.”
Now for the bad news for Team Trump: despite her agreement with Trump’s legal team, Chutkan concurred with the prosecutors that certain “sensitive materials” should not be made public.
The clincher is that Chutkan allows the prosecution to determine what information is “sensitive” and what is not.
In brief, the prosecution is still essentially getting what it wants (according to Forbes, the prosecutors sought “a much broader protective order” that Chutkan rejected) because they are effectively determining the terms of this “more limited” protective order.
However, the actual rhetoric Chutkan used when addressing the court may be equally concerning for Trump’s legal team.
She noted that while Trump, “like every American, has a First Amendment right to free speech,” that right is “not absolute” and in cases such as these, “free speech is subject to the rules.”
According to Forbes, this particular line appeared to be “a direct rejection” of Team Trump’s argument that any protective order against him would violate his First Amendment rights.
Chutkan did not spare words when discussing the potential impact of these legal proceedings on Trump’s reelection campaign.
She told Trump’s legal staff that it “must yield” to the legal proceedings, and “if that means he can’t say exactly what he wants in a political speech, so be it”
On August 28, all parties are scheduled to reconvene and endeavor to negotiate a trial start date.
This encounter has the potential to be acrimonious, given that Smith’s proposed start date of January 2, 2024 has caused Trump considerable annoyance.
In an ironic twist, the former president termed that start date “election interference” due to its proximity to the Iowa GOP caucuses, the “real” beginning of the GOP primary season.
According to the Associated Press, Chutkan, who was appointed by former President Barack Obama in 2014, is “the toughest punisher” in all matters pertaining to January 6, 2021.
Trump has pleaded not guilty to the four criminal counts related to the ongoing investigation by Smith into the former president’s alleged attempts to subvert the 2020 election.