Judge denies Trump’s election interference contempt request for Jack Smith

The judge presiding over the federal election interference case against former President Donald Trump has denied his request to hold special counsel Jack Smith and his staff in contempt.

Earlier this month, Trump’s attorneys requested U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan to hold Smith in contempt for filing motions while the case was delayed pending Trump’s presidential immunity appeal.

Chutkan, on the other hand, stated in her opinion and order on Thursday that she agrees with Trump that Smith’s filings impose a “cognizable” burden on him and that while reviewing Smith’s filings was “not a major burden” for Trump’s team, she would now prohibit the special counsel from making substantive pretrial motions without permission in the future.

Chutkan has ordered that both parties obtain her permission before submitting any additional pre-trial motions while the stay order is in effect.

“This measure is an addition to the Stay Order, aimed to further advance its purposes, and does not reflect a determination that the Government has violated any of its clear and unambiguous terms or acted in bad faith,” she said in a statement.

Judge denies Trump's election interference contempt request for Jack Smith

Chutkan stated that continuing to produce information was a separate thing and that she “cannot conclude that merely receiving discovery or an exhibit list constitutes a meaningful burden,” because getting discovery “requires no review or response” from Trump’s team.

Smith’s office had specifically informed both the court and Trump’s team that it intended to continue meeting the court’s previously stated timelines. In a memo opposing Trump’s move to hold the special counsel in contempt, Smith’s office stated that they “did what they said they would do.”

Chutkan stated in her order that Smith’s office was correct: her move did not prevent the special counsel from meeting deadlines.

“On its own terms, then, the Stay Order’s key operative sentence did not clearly bar the Government from voluntary rather than obligatory compliance with the Pretrial Order’s now-stayed deadlines,” Chutkan stated in his letter.

Trump had filed a motion alleging that the federal government violated a court order by continuing to produce discovery in the case and filing a petition while the case was halted while an appeals court considered Trump’s request to dismiss the lawsuit on presidential immunity grounds.

Judge denies Trump's election interference contempt request for Jack Smith

Trump lawyer John Lauro filed the request earlier this month, arguing that Smith should be held in contempt for “unlawful” production of discovery and accusing federal prosecutors of “partisan-driven misconduct.”

Chutkan’s judgment on Thursday stated that even after she stayed the case on December 13, Smith’s office provided additional discovery and a draft exhibit list to Trump’s legal team, as well as a move to exclude certain evidence and arguments from any trial in the case.

Trump is awaiting a verdict from a federal appeals court in a lawsuit in which he claims he is immune from prosecution for his election intervention activities because he was president at the time. The lawsuit is likely to end up before the Supreme Court.

The trial in the election case is due to begin on March 4, but Chutkan noted in her decision that it should be delayed while the courts analyze these legal issues.

“Contrary to Defendant’s assertion, the court has not and will not set deadlines in this case based on the assumption that he has undertaken preparations when not required to do so,” she said in a statement.

She then recalled a previous remark in which she stated that seven months would be “sufficient time” to prepare for trial, implying that an extra few weeks could be added given that the matter had been stopped since December.

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