Special counsel asks judge for gag order in Trump classified documents case


Prosecutors from the special counsel’s office asked a federal judge in Florida on Friday to impose a silence order on Donald Trump, which would limit his ability to comment on law enforcement who raided his Mar-a-Lago resort.

The request – a first in the case of mishandling of classified documents – comes after the former president repeatedly and misleadingly criticized the FBI for having a policy around the use of deadly force during the search and seizure of government documents at its complex in August 2022.

Although Trump told supporters he could have been in danger because of this policy, the policy constitutes standard protocol for FBI searches and limits how agents can use force in search operations. . The same standard FBI policy was used in searches of President Joe Biden’s home and offices as part of a separate investigation into classified documents.

Prosecutors for special counsel Jack Smith wrote to Judge Aileen Cannon in a filing late Friday that the conditions that allow Trump to stay out of jail while awaiting trial should be updated.

The request will put Cannon at the center of an intensely charged and politicized battle, grappling with Trump’s ongoing presidential campaign and the First Amendment, just as prosecutors are raising concerns with her about the proceedings she is overseeing. So far, the judge has moved slowly to resolve disputes related to Trump’s criminal mismanagement and obstruction of justice case, and no trial date has been set.

Prosecutors say the silence is necessary to protect the integrity of the criminal case and the law enforcement officers associated with it. They wrote that the former president’s inflammatory statements could incite his supporters to retaliate against federal authorities, some of whom could be witnesses in the case.

“Trump’s repeated mischaracterization as an attempt to kill him, his family, and Secret Service agents has endangered the law enforcement officers involved in the investigation and prosecution of this case and threatened the integrity of these proceedings,” prosecutors wrote.

His recent comments, they added, “invite the kind of threats and harassment that have occurred when other participants in legal proceedings against Trump have been targeted by his invectives.”

The policy on the use of deadly force is included among several pages of documents governing the FBI’s protocol and search policies during their visit to Mar-a-Lago, which were made public in Trump’s court case federal government this week. The documents also specify that the agents would wear casual, unmarked business attire, and specify that if Trump arrived at Mar-a-Lago during the search, leaders there would speak to him and his Secret Service.

Prosecutors say Trump’s lawyers told them they were against restricting his ability to comment on law enforcement who worked on the investigation, and they objected to the special prosecutor’s office responds to Trump’s recent remarks in court Friday evening, Memorial Day weekend.

“They do not believe there is any imminent danger and have requested to meet and talk next Monday,” prosecutors added in the filing.

Trump’s legal team is preparing to respond in court this weekend, a person familiar with Trump’s approach told CNN.

Prosecutors noted that Trump amplified the accusations against the FBI when searching his Truth Social account on Friday.

Trump’s campaign sent a fundraising email Tuesday claiming that FBI agents were “locked and loaded” and that he “almost escaped death” at Mar-a-Lago.

Steven Cheung, a Trump campaign spokesman, in response to prosecutors’ request Friday evening, said the Biden administration: “Hackers and thugs are obsessed with trying to disenfranchise President Trump and all voters Americans of their First Amendment rights. The repeated attempts to silence President Trump during the presidential campaign are blatant attempts at election interference.”

The Justice Department’s request to the court Friday specifically asks Cannon to restrict Trump’s ability to comment on law enforcement by changing his conditions of pre-trial release from prison.

It’s a different approach than the one the special counsel’s office took to limit what Trump could say about his 2020 election record in federal court in Washington, DC.

This could potentially have greater consequences and be monitored by judicial probation authorities in addition to the Justice Department, according to sources familiar with the matter.

In a particularly direct response to Trump, Attorney General Merrick Garland responded Thursday to Trump’s claims about the FBI search at Mar-a-Lago. “This allegation is false and extremely dangerous. The document referred to in the allegation is standard Department of Justice policy limiting the use of force,” Garland said.

“As the FBI advises, this is part of the standard operational plan for searches,” Garland said. “And in fact, it was even used in the consensual search of President Biden’s home.”

The FBI reiterated the same thing in a statement this week, an indication of the concern Trump’s remarks have sparked within federal law enforcement.

Previously, prosecutors in the Trump classified documents case successfully fought to have the judge keep the names of the FBI agents who worked on the Mar-a-Lago search blacked out in recent court filings, in due to fears of threats and harassment.

The FBI and Justice Department have faced a significant number of threats since the Mar-a-Lago raid nearly two years ago, particularly after Trump amplified false information about the forces’ approach of federal order. For example, a man who was a prolific poster on Trump’s social media platform attempted to attack the FBI’s Cincinnati field office following the raid.

Courts outside Florida have upheld gag orders that prohibit Trump from speaking about witnesses, potential jurors and staff working on his cases because of the threats and harassment his comments have drawn, among other reasons.

Trump’s ability to comment publicly is still limited in his ongoing trial in New York, where he has been found in contempt and fined 10 for violating that silence order, and in his Washington-based election interference case , DC, where he awaits trial in Washington. federal court.

This story has been updated with additional reporting.

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