Prosecutors in classified files case to urge judge to bar Trump from inflammatory comments about FBI

FORT PIERCE, Fla. (AP) — The federal judge presiding over the classified documents prosecution of Donald Trump is hearing arguments Monday on whether to bar the former president from public comments that prosecutors say could endanger the lives of FBI agents working on the case.

Special counsel Jack Smith‘s team says the restrictions are necessary in light of Trump’s false comments that the FBI agents who searched his Mar-a-Lago estate in August 2022 for classified documents were out to kill him and his family. Trump’s lawyers say any gag order would improperly silence Trump in the heat of a presidential campaign in which he is the presumptive Republican nominee.

It was not immediately clear when U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon, a Trump appointee whose handling of the case has been closely scrutinized, might rule. Before turning her attention to the limited gag order sought by prosecutors, she is scheduled to hear additional arguments Monday morning related to the Justice Department’s appointment and funding of Smith, whose team brought the charges.

The arguments are part of a three-day hearing that began Friday to deal with several of the many unresolved legal issues that have piled up in a case that had been set for trial last month but has been snarled by delays and a plodding pace. Cannon indefinitely postponed the trial, and it’s all but guaranteed that it will not take place before the November presidential election.

Trump faces dozens of felony charges accusing him of illegally hoarding top-secret records at Mar-a-Lago and obstructing the FBI’s efforts to get them back. Given the breadth of evidence that prosecutors have put forward, many legal experts have regarded the case as the most straightforward of the four prosecutions against Trump, who has pleaded not guilty. But Cannon has been slow to rule on numerous motions and has proved willing to entertain defense requests that prosecutors say are meritless.

Smith’s team objected last month after Trump claimed that the FBI was prepared to kill him while executing a court-authorized search warrant of Mar-a-Lago on Aug. 8, 2022. He was referencing boilerplate language from FBI policy that prohibits the use of deadly force except when the officer conducting the search has a reasonable belief that the “subject of such force poses an imminent danger of death or serious physical injury to the officer or to another person.”

Trump falsely claimed in a fundraising email that the FBI was “locked & loaded ready to take me out & put my family in danger.”

Prosecutors say such comments pose a significant foreseeable risk to law enforcement, citing as examples an attempted attack on an FBI office in Ohio three days after the Mar-a-Lago search and the more recent arrest of a Trump supporter accused of threatening an FBI agent who investigated President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter.

“Deploying such knowingly false and inflammatory language in the combustible atmosphere that Trump has created poses an imminent danger to law enforcement that must be addressed before more violence occurs,” prosecutors wrote in a court filing on Friday.

Trump’s lawyers say they’ve failed to show that his comments have directly endangered any FBI official who participated in the Mar-a-Lago search.

“Fundamentally, the motion is based on the fact that President Trump criticized the Mar-a-Lago raid based on evidence from publicly filed motions in this case, as part of his constitutionally protected campaign speech, in a manner that someone in the government disagreed with and does not like,” they said.

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