trump asks court to find jack smith in contempt in further bid to delay jan 6 trial

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Former President Donald Trump asked the district court judge overseeing his trial for his actions leading up to Jan. 6, 2021, to hold special counsel Jack Smith in contempt of court, according to a filing submitted on Thursday.

Trump’s filing claims that Smith, who is prosecuting the former president in a D.C. federal court, is in violation of a stay order put in place by Judge Tanya Chutkan after the prosecutor submitted new pretrial filings during the ongoing stay period.

The stay order was put in place after Trump appealed a previous decision by Chutkan rejecting Trump’s assertion of absolute immunity from criminal prosecution. That appeal will be heard by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals on Jan. 9. Smith’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The argument Trump puts forward in his filing is that Smith’s motions are filled with “partisan rhetoric” that “mirrors the Biden Administration’s dishonest talking points.” Since Trump is relieved of having to respond by the stay order, “the prosecutors seek to weaponize the Stay to spread political propaganda.”

Like many Trump-related legal motions, this filing is likely little more than a bid to buy time. Since his multiple indictments for trying to steal the 2020 election and illegally taking classified documents, Trump has engaged in a legal battle to delay his trials as much as possible, since he would become immune from prosecution, and even have the power to dismiss federal charges, if he were to win the 2024 election and take office again.

Former President Donald Trump asked a district court on Jan. 4 to hold special counsel Jack Smith in contempt of court.

Former President Donald Trump asked a district court on Jan. 4 to hold special counsel Jack Smith in contempt of court.
Jacquelyn Martin via Associated Press

Trump faces four charges in the trial, including conspiracy to defraud the country by lying about election fraud, conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding for planning to derail the counting of electoral votes on Jan. 6, obstruction of an official proceeding for the attempt to do so, and conspiracy against rights for his efforts to threaten people’s right to vote.

It’s one of four separate legal battles the former president is facing: two related to his attempts to overturn the 2020 election, one regarding his alleged mishandling of classified documents, and one relating to his 2016 hush money payment to a porn star.

The request that Smith be held in contempt revolves around the prosecutor’s continued filing of pretrial motions during the stay period where Trump is relieved of the “burdens of litigation.” That relief means that Trump need not respond to motions filed by the prosecution until the appeal is concluded.

The prosecution’s continued motions, Trump argues, place an ongoing burden of litigation on him, in contravention of the stay order.

The pretrial filings Trump accuses Smith of improperly submitting are known as motions in limine, which state what evidence or arguments should be held inadmissible during the trial. The court previously ordered Smith to file these motions by Jan. 9, which is also the date Trump’s appeal is slated to be heard by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Smith’s motions aim to hold that filing deadline, which Chutkan said may still stand, depending on the appeal verdict, in her stay order.

With Trump asking the court to rule that the prosecution’s motions be withdrawn, and that they be forbidden from submitting any more filings until the stay is lifted, the contempt request can be seen as Trump’s effort to tie up Smith’s motions and further delay the trial if he loses his appeal.

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