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By Sarah May on
 September 7, 2023

Jack Smith says Trump's public commentary on federal case could taint jury pool

As the war of words between Donald Trump and those determined to secure his conviction continues, the Associate Press reports that Special Counsel Jack Smith has expressed concern that the former president's public statements on the 2020 election case set for trial next year in Washington, D.C. May irretrievably taint the jury pool -- a claim made despite the overwhelmingly liberal leanings of likely jurors in the capital.

Smith's contention came not long after U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan set March 4, 2024 as the date on which Trump's trial in the case will begin, a move that sparked additional outrage from the former president and members of his defense team.

In the special counsel's estimation, Trump's frequent online commentary on Chutkan as well as on Department of Justice prosecutors is an ongoing problem that could have an intimidating effect on potential witnesses and make it difficult to seat an unbiased jury.

As the AP noted, on Tuesday -- the same day Smith raised the aforementioned concerns anew -- Trump took to social media to publicize a story from the New York Post about Chutkan, suggesting that it was virtually impossible for someone with her background to preside over his case in an impartial manner.

Trump also took aim at Smith himself, referring to him as “deranged” and someone characterized by “unchecked and insane aggression.”

The catalyst for Smith's latest statement of concern was the emergence of a DOJ request to file a motion under seal, something to which Trump's legal team objected.

Lawyers for the former president contended that they should be afforded time to review such filings as well as any accompanying exhibits prior to docketing.

Smith's team countered by arguing that delays – which could last weeks – resulting from a need for individual decisions to be made as to whether filings involving sensitive materials could be docketed would be impractical and unwieldy.

According to the Justice Department, “Such a requirement would grind litigation in this case to a halt, which is particularly infeasible given the pressing matters before the Court – including the defendant's daily extrajudicial statements that threaten to prejudice the jury pool in this case....”

Chutkan, for her part, informed the parties that they have until next week to offer further materials that could be filed under seal, and the volume of such information likely to be forthcoming remains to be seen.

Smith's stated worry about potential delays underscores yet another topic that has engendered significant debate among legal observers, namely, Chutkan's decision to commence the trial in early March of next year.

Despite Trump's request that the trial in D.C. be postponed until April of 2026, Chutkan came far closer to granting Smith's request to begin proceedings on Jan.2, 2024 by selecting a date in March of next year and imposing what is a startlingly compressed timeline on a case that involves a voluminous amount of discovery.

Among those who believe Chutkan's decision is an egregious and calculated bid to deprive Trump of the ability to properly prepare for trial is John Malcolm of the Institute for Constitutional Government at the Heritage Foundation, who said, “This is all happening, as the judge well knows, while Trump is running for president, facing three other indictments, and several civil lawsuits.”

Even liberal CNN legal analyst Elie Honig cast a skeptical eye over Chutkan's expedited scheduling, saying, “[s]ome of the rationales that the DOJ had offered up that the judge agreed with” in terms of setting such an aggressive timeline “don't cut it,” but in Smith's opinion, Trump should be required to quietly accept the glaring injustice –- and all others stemming from the case –- in deferential silence.

Written By:
Sarah May

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