Judge rejects Trump bid to hold Jack Smith in contempt in election case

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    Special Counsel Jack Smith delivers remarks on a recently unsealed indictment alleging four felony counts against former U.S. President Donald Trump, in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 1, 2023.

    Alex Wong | Getty Images

    A federal judge on Thursday rejected an effort by former President Donald Trump to hold special counsel Jack Smith in contempt for submitting court filings in Trump’s criminal election interference case while the case is paused.

    The order to stay the case pending Trump’s appeal of an unfavorable ruling “did not clearly and unambiguously prohibit” Smith’s actions, Judge Tanya Chutkan wrote in a Washington, D.C., federal court order.

    “Staying the deadline for a filing is not the same thing as affirmatively prohibiting it,” she wrote.

    But Chutkan granted Trump’s request that Smith and other parties must get her permission before filing any more pretrial motions.

    Trump spokesman Steven Cheung in a statement characterized that decision as a “strong rebuke” of Smith. But Chutkan’s order noted that the measure “does not reflect a determination that the Government has violated any of its clear and unambiguous terms or acted in bad faith.”

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    Attorneys for Trump had accused Smith of violating a court order by producing evidence and filing a motion in the federal election case after its deadlines had been stayed.

    Smith has sought to expedite the case in which Trump is accused of illegally conspiring to overturn his 2020 election loss to President Joe Biden. The case is currently set to begin trial in early March.

    The case in federal district court was automatically put on hold last month while Trump appealed Chutkan’s refusal to dismiss his criminal charges on the grounds of presidential immunity.

    A panel of federal appeals court judges heard oral arguments last week on Trump’s claim of “absolute immunity” for official presidential acts.

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