U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan partially sided with Donald Trump on Thursday to limit what special counsel Jack Smith can do in his election interference case against the former president.
Trump’s attorneys filed a motion earlier this month calling on Chutkan to hold Smith in contempt for continuing to make filings in the case, which the judge had placed a stay order on in December.
Trump has appealed to the Washington, D.C., Circuit Court of Appeals over whether presidential immunity applies to charges Smith has brought against him.
Smith tried unsuccessfully late last month to get the U.S. Supreme Court to weigh in on the matter to expedite the appeal, but the Court denied the request, so the review will proceed through the normal process.
Despite Chutkan’s Dec. 13 order staying proceedings at the federal court level, Trump’s filing said Smith’s office served him with 4,000 pages of “additional discovery” on Dec. 17, including what the prosecutors’ production letter described as “several hundred video and audio recordings.”
Trump attorneys requested that all Smith’s discovery requests be withdrawn and that prosecutors be required to obtain permission from the court before submitting any filings “to ensure that any further attempts to violate the Stay Order will be summarily denied.”
In her Thursday order, Chutkan sided with Trump, writing, “The court agrees … diligent defense counsel will need to conduct a preliminary review of each substantive motion the Government files in order to know whether they need to take further action. While that is not a major burden, it is a cognizable one.”
“Accordingly, the court will adopt Defendant’s recommendation that the parties be forbidden from filing any further substantive pretrial motions without first seeking leave from the court.”
“Any such motion for leave to file shall state whether the proposed motion is ancillary to the pending appeal and so requires a timely response or other action before the mandate is returned,” she added.
However, Chutkan did not hold Smith’s prosecutors in contempt, citing her December stay order, which she said “did not clearly and unambiguously prohibit the Government actions to which Defendant objects.”
The judge’s order had specifically stayed “the deadlines and proceedings scheduled.”
“But staying the deadline for a filing is not the same thing as affirmatively prohibiting it. The basic function of a deadline is not to authorize a filing, but to time-limit it; correspondingly, the lifting of a deadline removes that time limit but does not necessarily bar the filing,” Chutkan wrote.
She concluded in her Thursday order that her decision “does not reflect a determination that the Government has violated any of its clear and unambiguous terms or acted in bad faith.”
Trump spokesman Steven Cheung responded to Chutkan’s ruling saying in a statement, “The D.C. 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, as the appeal on executive immunity is pending before the appellate court.”
“Crooked Joe Biden and Deranged Jack Smith were playing games with the court docket to make political and inflammatory statements critical of President Trump, while trying to help Crooked Joe. That behavior was ordered to immediately cease,” he added.
“After all, no prosecutor is above the law.”