Special Counsel Jack Smith speaks on a recently unsealed four-count indictment against former US President Donald Trump on August 1, 2023 in Washington, DC.
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A federal judge on Thursday rejected former President Donald Trump’s attempt to hold special counsel Jack Smith in contempt for filing court papers in Trump’s criminal election interference trial while the proceedings are paused.
The order staying the case until Trump appeals an unfavorable ruling “did not clearly and unequivocally prohibit Smith’s actions,” Judge Tanya Chutkan wrote in a federal court order in Washington, DC
“Suspending the deadline for a filing is not the same as expressly prohibiting it,” she wrote.
But Chutkan granted Trump’s request that Smith and other parties seek her permission before filing further pretrial motions.
Trump spokesman Steven Cheung called the decision a “strong rebuke” to Smith in a statement. However, Chutkan’s order states that the measure “does not reflect a finding that the government has violated any of its clear and unambiguous provisions or acted in bad faith.”
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Lawyers for Trump had accused Smith of violating a court order by providing evidence and filing a motion in the federal election case after its deadlines were suspended.
Smith has sought to expedite the case accusing Trump of illegally conspiring to overturn his 2020 election loss to President Joe Biden. The trial is currently scheduled to begin 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 group of federal appeals court judges heard oral arguments last week on Trump’s claim of “absolute immunity” for official presidential actions.
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