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Attorneys for former U.S. President Donald Trump Todd Blanche (R) and John Lauro (L) speak at the E.C. in Washington, DC on August 11, 2023. Barrett Prettyman arrives at the US Court House.
US District Judge Sudgan asked Donald Trump said at a dramatic hearing in Washington on Friday in the 2020 election meddling case that he plans to put serious limits on how dramatic evidence is handled that could set the tone for the upcoming trial.
The former president has the right to free speech, but that right is “not absolute.” Pinching said. “Mr. Trump, like every American, has a First Amendment right to free speech, but that right is not absolute. In a criminal case like this one, the defendant’s freedom of speech is subject to the rules.”
This is the first hearing before Sudkhan. He has already shown a habit of responding quickly and forcefully to inter-party debates over planning. Sudgan, an Obama appointee and former public defender who oversaw several cases related to the events of January 6, 2021. The damage caused by the attack on the US capitol was openly discussed happened to American democracy.
Trump pleaded not guilty last week to four criminal charges related to efforts to sway the 2020 presidential election, and a judge warned Trump against witness intimidation.
Whether or not Trump’s public statements are covered by the publication protection order, he said, “I will scrutinize them very carefully” if they constitute witness intimidation or obstruction of justice.
Trump’s lawyer, John Lauro, said: “President Trump will carefully abide by the terms of his release.”
Sutgen accepted restrictions proposed by prosecutors that would have prevented the public release of information from interview transcripts and records of the investigation, including witness interviews with investigators that took place outside of the grand jury.
How Sutgen handles the case will be in contrast to U.S. District Judge Eileen Cannon, a Trump appointee in Florida who has been in less of a rush to move proceedings in the classified documents case against the former president. Cannon has already been heavily scrutinized for what critics say was a favorable ruling against the former president in a previous case that brought up challenging aspects of Trump’s Justice Department investigation last year.
Sutgan and Lauro had several sharp exchanges about what the 2024 presidential contender should be allowed to say about the evidence turned in his case.
“Nobody disagrees that any speech that intimidates a witness should be prohibited, what we’re talking about is the fair use of information,” Lauro said at one point, suggesting that Trump was referring publicly to something from his personal memory. Evidence in the case.
“The fact that he is currently campaigning for politics is subject to the administration of justice,” the judge said. “If he can’t say exactly what he wants to say in a political speech, how should it be.”
Lauro raised the hypothesis that Trump made a statement during the debate with his former Vice President Mike Pence — now running for the White House and a key witness in the criminal case — that overlapped with what was in the findings.
The judge was not sold.
“He is a criminal. Like any defendant, he has restrictions. The case will proceed in the usual manner,” said Sudkhan.
“You’re confusing what your client needs to do to defend himself and what he wants to do politically,” he told him. “Whatever your client does to defend himself should happen in this court, not on the Internet.”
Protective orders are a normal part of any criminal case and are usually approved without much drama. In this case, however, the special counsel’s office and Trump’s defense attorneys sparred over what Trump could publicly discuss in court filings.
Among the restrictions lawyers are seeking in the case is a rule barring Trump’s lawyers from giving the former president copies of “sensitive” evidence, including witness interviews and grand jury transcripts of dozens of witnesses in Trump’s inner circle.
Since Trump’s impeachment last week, prosecutors have pointed to Trump’s social media posts, including a vague and ominous social media post that read “If you come after me, I’ll come after you!” Trump lashed out at Sudkan, writing in an all-caps post, “There is no way I can get a fair hearing with a judge ‘assigned’ to a ridiculous free speech/fair election case. Everyone knows it, and she knows it too! ”
Prosecutors said the records underscored the need for a protective order restricting Trump from discussing or sharing evidence on his social media accounts during the legal case.
“If the defendant were to begin making public postings using the details discovered here — or, for example, grand jury transcripts — it would harm witnesses or adversely affect the fair administration of justice in this case,” the attorneys wrote.
For their part, Trump’s legal team proposed less restrictive rules, which lawyers accused of being part of a politically motivated campaign to limit his First Amendment rights. His defense attorneys pushed back at the prosecutors’ definition of “sensitive” material, which should be subject to additional rules, and asked to expand who can access certain evidentiary materials.
This story has been updated with additional updates.