WASHINGTON – The judge overseeing the federal election interference case against former President Donald Trump has denied a contempt request against special counsel Jack Smith and his office.
Earlier this month Trump’s lawyers asked US District Judge Tanya Chutkan to hold Smith in contempt to file motions while the case is pending remained Awaiting Trump’s appeal on presidential immunity.
Chutkan, but in his opinion said and order On Thursday, he said he agreed with Trump that Smith’s filings placed an “informative” burden on him and that it was “not a substantial burden” for Trump’s team to review Smith’s files, which he would now bar the special counsel from doing. Pre-trial motions are filed without permission.
Chutkan ordered that both sides seek his permission before filing motions pending further trial while the ruling remains in effect.
“This measure is supplemental to the Bold Order, intended to further its objectives and does not reflect a determination by the Government that it has breached any of its clear and unambiguous terms or acted in bad faith,” he said.
Chutkan wrote that pursuing discovery is a separate matter, and that he “cannot conclude that obtaining discovery or a list of exhibits alone constitutes a meaningful burden” because obtaining discovery “requires no review or response” from Trump’s team.
Smith had an office clearly stated both the court and Trump’s team have previously said they plan to continue meeting court-imposed deadlines. In a memo opposing Trump’s bid to hold the special counsel in contempt, Smith’s office said the office “did what it said it was going to do.”
In his order, Chutkan noted that Smith’s office was factually correct: His motion did not prohibit the special counsel from continuing to meet the deadlines.
“By its own terms, the main operative provision of the Thick Order did not expressly prohibit the Government from voluntarily, rather than mandatory, compliance with the terms of the Pretrial Order now in effect,” Chutkan wrote.
Trump filed a motion alleging that the federal government violated the court order by continuing to conduct discovery and filing motions in the case. while the job is suspended the appeals court is considering Trump’s attempt to dismiss the case on grounds of presidential immunity.
It came from Trump attorney John Lauro, who argued earlier this month that Smith should be held in contempt for “illegal” production of the discovery and said federal prosecutors engaged in “partisan-driven abuse.”
According to Chutka on Thursday, even after he dismissed the case on Dec. 13, Smith’s office filed a motion with Trump’s legal team seeking additional discovery and a list of exhibits, as well as certain evidence and arguments to be excluded from any trial in the case.
It’s Trump pending a decision by a federal appeals court while he claimed that because he was president at the time, he was immune from prosecution for trying to interfere in the election. The case is likely to end up before the Supreme Court.
The trial of the election case will begin on March 4, but may be delayed as these legal issues are considered by the courts.