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Judge denies Trump’s bid to hold Jack Smith in contempt, hints at delayed trial

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The judge presiding over former President Donald Trump’s 2020 election indictment denied his bid to hold special counsel Jack Smith’s office in contempt.

Earlier this month, Trump’s lawyers demanded Smith’s team be held in contempt for filing to the court despite Judge Tanya Chutkan pausing additional proceedings pending the presidential immunity challenge.

“On its own terms, then, the Stay Order’s key operative sentence did not clearly bar the Government from voluntary rather than obligatory compliance with the Pretrial Order’s now-stayed deadlines,” Chutkan wrote in a six-page opinion.

Trump’s team flagged three significant filings Smith made after Chutkan in December ruled that “any further proceedings that would move this case towards trial or impose additional burdens of litigation on defendant” would be paused.

Despite denying Trump’s plea to penalize Smith, Chutkan did grant him a partial win by clarifying her stay order.

“Until the mandate is returned in this case, the parties shall not file any substantive pretrial motions without first seeking leave of court, and any such request for leave shall state whether the proposed motion concerns matters involved in the appeal or is instead ancillary to it,” she ruled.

Trump’s team lost its bid to hold Smith in contempt. AP

Trump’s team quickly took a victory lap over Chutkan’s opinion.

“The DC District Court has issued a strong rebuke of Deranged Jack Smith, prohibiting him from harassing President Trump with additional filings and compelling him to respect the stay order in the J6 case,” Trump campaign spokesperson Steven Cheung said in a statement.

Underpinning Trump and Smith’s tangling over court documents are concerns about the March 4 trial start date.

Smith had unsuccessfully appealed to the Supreme Court to fast-track consideration of Trump’s presidential immunity argument to scrap the indictment, currently pending in the DC Court of Appeals, but the high court declined to do so.

Prosecutors seemingly want to keep the March 4 trial start date on track amid mostly unspoken concerns that as Trump inches closer to the election it will become more complicated to convict him.

Smith had lost his appeal to the Supreme Court to fast-track consideration of Trump’s immunity argument. AP

While Chutkan did not disclose plans to change the trial start date, she very briefly appeared to foreshadow that such an adjustment might be necessary.

“Contrary to Defendant’s assertion, the court has not and will not set deadlines in this case based on the assumption that he has undertaken preparations when not required to do so,” she wrote.

In other words, Chutkan suggested that Trump’s legal team is not required to respond to “carry any meaningful burdens” while the proceedings are paused.

She also noted that “if and when the mandate is returned … the court sets a new schedule.”

Chutkan granted Trump a win by modifying the stay order. AP

Already several key dates in proceedings have passed and others look in jeopardy. For instance, potential jurors are expected to fill out forms by Feb. 9 — within less than three weeks.

Trump has pleaded not guilty and denied wrongdoing in the four-count 2020 election indictment against him as he has with the other three cases.




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