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Trump legal news brief: Trump’s lawyers ask Judge Chutkan to hold Jack Smith in contempt of court

In World
January 05, 2024

Lawyers for former President Donald Trump submit a filing to Judge Tanya Chutkan asking her to hold special counsel Jack Smith and his team in contempt of her order to pause the proceedings in the case until Trump can appeal a ruling that presidential immunity does not protect him from prosecution for election interference. Smith’s team has continued to submit court filings and shared evidence lists with Trump’s lawyers in an attempt to keep the start date for the trial on schedule for March. Here are the latest legal developments for the former president seeking to win reelection to the White House in 2024.

Jan. 6 election interference

Key players: Judge Tanya Chutkan, special counsel Jack Smith, Trump lawyer John Lauro

  • On Thursday, Trump’s lawyers asked Chutkan to find Smith and his team in contempt of the judge’s order to pause court proceedings while Trump appeals a ruling that presidential immunity does not protect him from being prosecuted for his attempts to overturn the 2020 election, the Associated Press reported.

  • Chutkan issued the stay in the case on Dec. 13, but Smith’s team, seeking to keep the March 4 start date of the trial on schedule, sent Trump’s lawyers a list of exhibits it plans to use in the case a few days after the order. On Dec. 27, prosecutors also asked Chutkan to bar Trump from making “baseless political claims” during the trial.

  • Lauro cited those two items in his contempt motion: “These were no accidents. The submissions were fully planned, intentional violations of the stay order, which the prosecutors freely admit they perpetrated in hopes of unlawfully advancing this case.”

  • Lauro is asking Chutkan to force prosecutors to reimburse Trump for legal costs “incurred responding to the prosecutor’s improper productions and filings.”

  • The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit will hear arguments on Tuesday on whether being president on Jan. 6, 2021, protects Trump from being prosecuted for his efforts to overturn his election loss to Joe Biden. Its decision will likely be taken up by the U.S. Supreme Court.

  • Chutkan’s order staying proceedings in the case does not specifically bar prosecutors from filing court papers or submitting information to Trump’s lawyers.

Why it matters: Trump’s lawyers are seeking to delay the start of the election interference trial until after the 2024 presidential election. Smith’s team has argued that it is in the interest of the country to have a speedy trial and resolution in the case.

Recommended reading

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Wednesday, Jan. 3

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Lawyers for former President Donald Trump formally ask the United States Supreme Court to rule on the decision by Colorado’s Supreme Court to remove his name from primary ballots because he was in violation of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. In New York, meanwhile, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals rules against Trump’s request for a review of its earlier decision that presidential immunity claims do not protect him from being sued by columnist E. Jean Carroll. Here are the latest developments in the legal cases involving the man who hopes to be reelected to the White House in 2024.

Jan. 6 election interference

Trump takes Colorado Supreme Court ballot ruling to U.S. Supreme Court

Key players: Colorado Supreme Court, United States Supreme Court

  • Trump’s lawyers asked the high court on Wednesday to intervene on the decision by the Colorado Supreme Court to remove his name from primary ballots in that state, Reuters reported.

  • The Colorado Supreme Court’s 4-3 ruling on Dec. 19, 2023, cited Section Three of the 14th Amendment, which bars those who have participated in “insurrection or rebellion” against the government from holding office.

  • “President Trump asks us to hold that Section Three disqualifies every oath-breaking insurrectionist except the most powerful one and that it bars oath-breakers from virtually every office, both state and federal, except the highest one in the land. Both results are inconsistent with the plain language and history of Section Three,” the majority opinion stated.

  • Trump has also appealed to the high court a decision by Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows, who also cited the 14th Amendment when deciding to bar Trump’s name from appearing on ballots there.

Why it matters: Trump appointed three of the Supreme Court’s nine judges, and a growing number of issues facing the former president are heading to their docket.

E. Jean Carroll civil defamation

Appeals court panel rejects Trump request for full review of presidential immunity decision in civil lawsuit

Key players: U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit Judges Jose A. Cabranes, Denny Chin and Maria Araujo Kahn, columnist E. Jean Carroll, United States Supreme Court

  • On Wednesday, a three-judge panel for the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York rejected a request by Trump’s lawyers that the full court review its earlier decision that Trump was not protected from being sued by Carroll by presidential immunity.

  • Last month, a three-judge panel at the Second Circuit ruled that Trump had effectively waived his presidential immunity defense when his lawyers didn’t raise it during the first defamation lawsuit that she brought against him.

  • In May, a jury found that Trump had sexually assaulted Carroll in a changing room at Bergdorf Goodman department store in New York in the mid-1990s and later defamed her by suggesting she was lying about the incident. Trump was ordered to pay Carroll $5 million, but he is appealing the decision.

  • Carroll filed a second defamation suit against Trump after he persisted with his claims that the sexual assault never happened and that Carroll had lied about it.

  • Last week, the court also denied a motion by Trump’s lawyers to delay the Jan. 16 start date of Carroll’s second defamation lawsuit against Trump.

Why it matters: Trump is attempting to use the presidential immunity defense in the civil lawsuits and the criminal prosecution on election interference charges brought by Smith. Ultimately, those arguments, like the 14th Amendment question, may end up before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Recommended reading

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Tuesday, Jan. 2

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In posts to his social media website, former President Donald Trump offers up new defenses for his actions during and leading up to the riot at the U.S. Capitol building by his supporters on Jan. 6, 2021. The claims suggest that the House select committee investigating the riot destroyed evidence Trump could have used to defend himself and that prior to being banned by Twitter, he had been preparing to invoke the Insurrection Act. Here is the latest legal news involving the man who hopes to be reelected to the White House in 2024.

January 6 election interference

Trump claims Jan. 6 committee destroyed evidence that would have helped his defense

Key players: Former Rep. Liz Cheney, special counsel Jack Smith, former entertainment lawyer Rogan O’Handley

  • In a New Year’s Day post on his social media website, Trump falsely suggested that Cheney and the House Jan. 6 select committee had “illegally” deleted and destroyed “most of the evidence, and related items, from the January 6th Committee of Political Thugs and Misfits. THIS ACT OF EXTREME SABOTAGE MAKES IT IMPOSSIBLE FOR MY LAWYERS TO PROPERLY PREPARE FOR, AND PRESENT, A PROPER DEFENSE OF THEIR CLIENT, ME,” Salon reported.

  • The committee interviewed more than 1,000 witnesses before it compiled its 845-page final report, and Trump is seizing on the fact that the entirety of those transcribed interviews does not appear in the final published report, suggesting, without evidence, that what is not included would have helped to exonerate him.

  • There is no evidence that the committee deleted any evidence that would have been beneficial to Trump, and on Tuesday, Cheney responded to Trump’s claim.

  • “Seems like someone is starting 2024 hangry. @realDonaldTrump – you and your lawyers have had the J6 cmttee materials (linked below) plus the grand jury info & much more for months. Lying about the evidence in all caps won’t change the facts. A public trial will show it all.”

  • On New Year’s Eve, Trump also reposted a message by O’Handley, who floated the evidence-free theory that Twitter banned Trump from the platform so as to thwart him from invoking the Insurrection Act that would have allowed him to use the U.S. military to clear the Capitol building on Jan. 6, 2021.

  • “What if they were trying to limit his ability to activate the Insurrection Act?” O’Handley mused.

  • Politico legal reporter Kyle Cheney (no relation to Liz) quickly pointed out the flaws with this theory: “The president doesn’t need Twitter to be able to issue a public warning. He also has repeatedly insisted he gave all necessary authority to DoD and Sec. Miller days earlier.”

  • And legal expert Steve Vladek piled on: “This cockamamie new theory depends upon a factually incorrect understanding of what it takes to trigger the Insurrection Act. Congress removed the (original statutory) requirement that a dispersal request *precede* the calling forth of troops in … 1795.”

Why it matters: While it remains to be seen whether Trump’s lawyers will offer similar arguments about alleged missing evidence or a conspiracy by social media companies to prevent the former president from invoking the Insurrection Act, Smith and his team have surely taken notice of the former president’s latest social media activity and could certainly present it in court.

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