Court Battles

Federal prosecutors: Trump statements in Jan. 6 case threaten to ‘prejudice’ jury pool

Federal prosecutors expressed frustration with former President Trump’s repeated comments as he faces a looming trial for seeking to block the transfer of power after losing the 2020 election.  

In a filing over an otherwise sealed legal battle, prosecutors alluded to Trump’s repeated commentary on social media in the case, complaining about “the defendant’s daily extrajudicial statements that threaten to prejudice the jury pool in this case.” 

Judge Tanya Chutkan, who will preside over Trump’s March trial, sided with Trump’s attorneys after they requested to respond to the sealed filing in the case, prompting special counsel Jack Smith’s team to say the former president’s comments about the case were among “the pressing matters before the Court.”

Trump’s comments in the case have ranged from attacks on Chutkan to name-calling Smith, often labeling him as “deranged.” 

Prosecutors raised that issue in an earlier hearing before Chutkan.

“He has publicly disparaged witnesses, he has attacked the court and citizens of the District of Columbia which is our jury pool,” Justice Department prosecutor Molly Gaston said in an August hearing to determine Trump’s trial date. 

Chutkan gave Trump more latitude to discuss the case than prosecutors desired, but in issuing a protective order in the case, she warned the former president would still need to take care with his comments.

“I can see how in advance of trial making public statements about potential witnesses is going to in and of itself affect the orderly administration of justice and could run afoul of his release conditions,” Chutkan said at the time. 

She also warned the parties to take “special care” in any statements they make about the case, saying she would ensure there was no “carnival atmosphere of unchecked publicity and trial by media,” a nod to language from an earlier Supreme Court case.

“The more a party makes inflammatory statements about this case … the greater the urgency will be that we proceed to trial quickly,” Chutkan said in a prior hearing before seeing a trial date.

Attorneys in the case are expected to file briefs on the matter next week to determine whether the filing should be unsealed. Prosecutors said the filing had to be made under seal as it contained sensitive information that would need to be redacted before being shared publicly.

Tags 2020 election claims Donald Trump Jack Smith special counsel investigation Special Counsel Jack Smith Trump indictment