Special counsel Jack Smith is urging an American federal judge to bar former President Trump from turning his criminal trial into a platform for “political attacks.”
Smith alleges that Trump’s defense is trying to bring partisan political discord into the case, thereby diverting from the real issues at hand. This comes as prosecutors in the case seek to prevent Trump from claiming that he’s being singled out or that the trial is a result of collusion with the Biden administration.
Assistant special counsel Molly Gaston has stressed that while the court may be able to ignore such tactics, a jury may not. In court documents, she wrote that Trump’s attempts to propagate “irrelevant disinformation” in the courtroom would be detrimental to the case. She further underscored the importance of keeping the trial proceedings professional and devoid of political influence.
Prosecutors are asking the court not to allow Trump and his attorneys to provide evidence suggesting foreign interference in the 2020 election or that his prosecution is selective or coordinated with the Biden administration.
They are also seeking to bar any evidence relating to the Capitol riot of January 6, 2021, and prevent Trump from blaming the National Guard or Washington, D.C.’s mayor, for the attack.
The request to block these lines of defense reflects concerns that the introduction of such claims could lead to a series of confusing mini-trials on ancillary issues. For instance, prosecutors are worried that if evidence regarding alleged undercover actors were introduced, this might lead to contentious debates over their identities and intentions.
Trump is facing charges of four federal felonies for allegedly trying to subvert the results of the 2020 election. He has pleaded not guilty and refuted all allegations of impropriety. The trial is set to begin on March 4, marking the first of four criminal cases against him.
However, the stability of the trial date is now uncertain as Trump invokes presidential immunity and double jeopardy rules. While proceedings are on hold until these appeals are settled, there’s a strong push from prosecutors to maintain the schedule.
Trump’s legal team has previously requested case dismissal on the grounds of a “vindictive” prosecution aiming to sabotage his possible re-election bid. They have accused the prosecution of manufacturing false charges, such as non-existent “coordination with the Biden administration.”
In response to prosecutors’ efforts to keep the trial’s timeline on track, Trump’s lawyers have accused them of disallowed actions. They have stressed that they will neither accept nor review any new findings until the court lifts the Stay Order.
Currently, Trump’s immunity appeal is being processed in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, where a three-judge panel has been asked by Trump to dismiss his indictment. Oral arguments are slated for January 9. Depending on the panel’s decision, the case could then move on to either the full D.C. Circuit bench or the U.S. Supreme Court.
Despite attempts from prosecutor Smith’s office to bypass the D.C. Circuit and accelerate the trial timeline, the Supreme Court rejected this plan last week. This means that for now, the trial is delayed amidst ongoing battles over issues of presidential immunity and the scope of evidence permissible at trial.
However, it remains evident that prosecutors are determined to ensure the trial takes place without political allegations muddying the waters.