Jack Smith wants to limit Donald Trump’s testimony

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Special counsel Jack Smith wants the court to limit what Donald Trump says in his testimony in his upcoming federal election interference trial.

In a Wednesday filing, Smith told the court it “should not permit the defendant to turn the courtroom into a forum in which he propagates irrelevant disinformation and should reject his attempt to inject politics into this proceeding.”

He asked U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan, who is overseeing the trial, to prevent Trump from telling the jury he was targeted for political prosecution by President Joe Biden. Smith argued that those accusations are not only irrelevant to jurors’ determination of Trump’s guilt or innocence but would be “prejudicial if presented to the jury.”

Newsweek reached out to Trump attorney John Lauro via email for comment.

Smith has continued to make filings to the court as though the scheduled March 4 trial date will go on as scheduled. The start of the trial is in limbo as Trump’s immunity claim works its way through the courts. The former president is arguing that he should be protected from criminal prosecution under presidential immunity, an argument that has already been rejected by Chutkan.

Legal commentator Randall Eliason said on X (formerly Twitter) that he’s expecting “another whiny response” from Trump’s lawyers about how Smith shouldn’t be filing anything while the immunity claim is being hashed out. Eliason also said that Trump’s defense team is likely to ask Chutkan to make Smith stop. But Eliason told Newsweek that Chutkan is unlikely to grant such a request.

“She can’t rule on them, and Trump will not need to reply at this time, but I think she’ll let him go ahead and file. [Smith’s] just trying to have everything teed up so things can move as quickly as possible once the case comes back to her,” Eliason said.

A federal appeals court is expected to hear arguments on the immunity claim starting January 9, after which its ruling could be further appealed to the Supreme Court. Smith filed an extraordinary petition to the high court two weeks ago, asking the justices to weigh in before the appeals court decides, but the Supreme Court rejected the request last week.

On Wednesday, Smith asked Chutkan to prohibit Trump from making his immunity argument to the jury and prevent him from shifting the blame for the January 6, 2021, U.S. Capitol riot onto law enforcement, like the Capitol Police and the National Guard, or alleged government informants, as he has suggested in the past.

Smith Limit Trump Testimony
Special counsel Jack Smith delivers remarks at the Justice Department on August 1. Smith has asked the judge to limit Donald Trump’s testimony at his federal election interference trial.
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Smith also requested that Trump be barred from introducing evidence that he was tricked by foreign disinformation about the 2020 election, calling such evidence “an irrelevant confusing sideshow” since it would not establish whether he is innocent of the charges he faces.

On Wednesday, Smith acknowledged that Trump’s state of mind would be a “key issue at trial.” But he stressed that while the former president could choose to testify, he should not be allowed to elicit speculative testimony from any witnesses other than himself.

His filing reads: “A witness cannot properly form an opinion based on personal knowledge if its basis is merely the defendant’s own hearsay statements—which would be the situation in this case if the defendant attempted to elicit speculation from witnesses about what the defendant believed based on his hearsay statements about what he believed.”

Smith added, “Allowing witnesses to share their personal views about the defendant’s state of mind likely will only distract the jury from its duty to assess and weigh the facts, as opposed to the speculation of fact witnesses.”

Legal analyst Joyce Alene responded to the filing on X, writing, “Defendants don’t get to say whatever they want to in front of a jury. For evidence to be admissible, it has to be relevant to an issue at trial. Expect more motions like this from Smith, limiting what Trump can and cannot do in front of a jury.”

Uncommon Knowledge

Newsweek is committed to challenging conventional wisdom and finding connections in the search for common ground.

Newsweek is committed to challenging conventional wisdom and finding connections in the search for common ground.

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Jack Smith wants to limit Donald Trump’s testimony

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