As the battle over a proposed protective order continues to heat up between Special Counsel Jack Smith and attorneys for Donald Trump in the latest federal case initiated against the former president, the presiding judge in the matter has set a date for what could prove to be a critical hearing on the issue, as The Hill reports.
On Tuesday, Chutkan determined that a hearing on the proposed order – something Trump's team opposes – will take place Friday morning.
The order sought by Smith would control the manner in which evidence is handled in the case and would restrict Trump's ability to share information with the public during the process of discovery.
Smith made his request for the protective order last week, and though it may have been his intention to do so all along, it was a Truth Social posting from the former president that may have sped up his timeline, as The Hill noted separately.
The controversial post from Trump that may have triggered Smith's move said, “IF YOU GO AFTER ME, I'M COMING AFTER YOU!” words that were interpreted by some as overtly threatening.
Though Trump's camp denied any menacing intent, federal prosecutors have argued that the former president's history of making public comments on pending litigation require a comprehensive approach such as the requested protective order could provide.
Trump's team initially responded to Smith's request by seeking a three-day extension to the response deadline issued by Chutkan, as the Washington Examiner explained.
“Friday evening ultimatums, given by the government before even calling the defense counsel, are wholly unproductive and undermine the potential for party-driven resolutions,” Trump's lawyers argued. “Requiring a Monday response to a Friday evening motion likewise forecloses the possibility of agreement and would encourage such improper tactics by the government in the future.”
Chutkan was unpersuaded, however, and she denied the extension request and noted that Trump's team still had the ability to confer with prosecutors on the scope of any eventual protective order either before or after the response deadline.
Amid the legal wrangling over the issue, a Trump spokesperson took aim at Smith's efforts to hamper the former president's First Amendment rights, stating, “The Truth post cited is the definition of political speech and was in response to the RINO, China-loving dishonest special interest groups and super PACS, like the ones funded by the Koch brothers and the Club for No Growth,” the Examiner further noted.
Trump himself lamented the judge's decision to keep the process moving on Smith's request, writing on his social media platform, “No, I shouldn't have a protective order placed on me because it would impinge upon my right to FREE SPEECH.”
The Trump legal team, in its formal response to Smith's request, wrote, “In a trial about First Amendment rights, the government seeks to restrict First Amendment rights. Worse, it does so against its administration's primary political opponent, during an election season in which the administration, prominent party members, and media allies have campaigned on the indictment and proliferated its false allegations.”
Lawyers for the former president also claimed that Smith was, in essence, demanding that Chutkan “assume the role of censor and impose content-based regulation on President Trump's political speech that would forbid him from publicly discussing or disclosing all non-public documents produced by the government, including both purportedly sensitive materials, and non-sensitive, potentially exculpatory documents.”
With the aforementioned divergent viewpoints as the backdrop, Chutkan will hear arguments on the issue on Friday morning, and though Trump presence in the courtroom is not required, he has already made his position in the matter crystal clear.