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5:36 p.m. ET, August 11, 2023

Judge Chutkan held the first hearing Friday in the Trump 2020 election case. Here's a recap of what happened

Judge Tanya Chutkan oversees Friday's hearing in Washington, DC. Bill Hennessy
In a hearing Friday, US District Judge Tanya Chutkan set the tone for how she will preside over the 2020 election subversion case against former President Donald Trump.

Chutkan kicked off the hearing – the first in the case before her and one that took place in her courtroom at DC federal courthouse – noting that while Trump’s rights as a criminal defendant would be protected, his First Amendment right to free speech was “not absolute.”

The hearing focused on what limits would be placed on how the former president can handle the evidence prosecutors will be turning over to him.

“In a criminal case such as this one, the defendant’s free speech is subject to the rules,” she said.

The judge closed the hearing with a promise that the case would advance like any normal proceeding in the criminal justice system, but warned that the more “inflammatory” statements were made by a party, the quicker she would need to move toward a trial to preserve a fair jury.

“It is a bedrock principle of the judicial process in this country,” she said, while quoting precedent, “that legal trials are not like elections, to be won through the use of the meeting hall, the radio and the newspaper.”

“This case is no exception,” she said.

Over the course of the proceedings, she expressed some skepticism to the arguments made by the office of special counsel Jack Smith, siding with Trump on at least a few matters related to the protective order over evidence that was the subject of Friday’s hearing. Addressing a submission from the government that she refused to let be filed under seal, she also emphasized a need for public transparency into the docket.

The hearing, roughly an hour and 40 minutes long, was the first in the case before Chutkan. She has already shown a habit of responding quickly and tersely on the docket to debates between the parties over scheduling. An Obama appointee and former public defender who has overseen several cases regarding the events of January 6, 2021, Chutkan has been outspoken about the harm the US Capitol attack caused to American democracy.
Chutkan later issued a protective order barring Trump from publicly disclosing sensitive information in the case.

Trump pleaded not guilty to four criminal charges related to his efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election last week, and the judge cautioned lawyers for Trump, who did not attend the hearing, about any public statements by their client that could possibly intimidate of witnesses.

Read more about today's hearing here.

4:46 p.m. ET, August 11, 2023

Judge issues protective order barring Trump from publicly disclosing sensitive information in 2020 election case

US District Judge Tanya Chutkan has issued a protective order barring former President Donald Trump from publicly disclosing “sensitive information” – including witness interviews – that’s turned over to his legal team by special counsel investigators in the 2020 election interference case. 

While Chutkan declined a broader protective order sought by prosecutors who wanted to lock down all evidence turned over in discovery, she did restrict how Trump and his legal team can handle and publicly share sensitive information.

Her order defines sensitive information as grand jury secrets, including subpoenaed information and witness testimony; transcripts and recordings of witness interviews done by investigators outside of the grand jury; evidence obtained through court-approved searches, and sealed orders related to the investigation. The evidence Trump cannot share publicly also includes material from other government agencies, such as the Secret Service. 

Prosecutors say the sensitive information represents a large amount of the evidence they’ve collected.

The order also specifies that while Trump can review the evidence unaccompanied by a lawyer and take notes about it, he cannot put in those notes any especially personal identifying information and cannot make photos, copies or recordings of the evidence.

During a hearing Friday in federal court in Washington, DC., prosecutors had pushed for even stricter rules, while Trump’s lawyers expressed concerns that the former president would inadvertently violate a protective order when making political statements on the 2024 campaign trail.

Chutkan repeatedly raised concerns about witness intimidation if certain restrictions were not imposed on what Trump could disclose from the evidence prosecutors hand over.

Arguing in favor of more limitations for when Trump viewed the sensitive discovery himself, prosecutor Thomas Windom said that the “defense counsel has a certain level of trust in the defendant that the government does not.”

In another exchange, Windom told the judge that the investigators routinely recorded witness interviews done outside of the grand jury and that there “hundreds of recordings of witness interviews.”

He warned that, without the restriction, there was nothing stopping Trump from publishing small snippets of the interviews and potentially tainting the jury pool.

When Trump attorney John Lauro took a turn to argue, he did not get far with the judge.

“You are conflating what your client needs to do to defend himself and what he wants to do politically,” she told him. “And what your client does to defend himself has to happen in this courtroom, not on the internet.”

Lauro put forward a hypothetical of Trump making a statement while debating his former Vice President Mike Pence – who is also running for the White House now and is a key witness in the criminal case – that overlapped with what’s in discovery.

The judge told Lauro the example wasn’t helping his arguments.

“He is a criminal defendant. He is going to have constraints the same as any defendant. This case is going to proceed in a normal order,” Chutkan said, referring to Trump.


2:11 p.m. ET, August 11, 2023

Judge warns further "inflammatory" statements from Trump will require the case to move more quickly to trial

Former President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally in Erie, Pennsylvania, last month. Lindsay DeDario/Reuters/File
US District Judge Tanya Chutkan closed her first hearing in the 2020 election subversion case with a warning shot to former President Donald Trump: the more inflammatory statements he makes connected to the case, the greater the urgency will be to move the case quickly to trial.

The warning hit on what have been the two major flashpoints in the January 6 prosecution against Trump so far: what he can say publicly about the evidence prosecutors turn over to the defense and how quickly the proceedings should move to a trial.

The judge's closing words also included a vow that the case will advance like any legal procedure in the criminal justice system.

"The defense has reiterated at length Mr. Trump’s First Amendment right to speak about this case and any evidence in it," she said, adding that Trump will be afforded all the rights of any criminal defense and it will take an effort to avoid "a carnival atmosphere."

"It is a bedrock principle of the judicial process in this country,” she said while quoting precedent, “that legal trials are not like elections, to be won through the use of the meeting hall, the radio and the newspaper.”
“This case is no exception,” she said.

She warned that “even ambiguous statement from either party or counsel ... can threaten the process.”

The more a party makes “inflammatory” statements that could taint a jury pool, she said, “the greater the urgency will be that we proceed to trial quickly” to ensure a fair trial.

More background: Federal prosecutors are seeking to start to the trial on January 2, 2024, days before the anniversary of the attack on the US Capitol and the Iowa caucuses, according to a filing Thursday. They also propose to have jury selection done in December, before the winter holidays.
Trump objected to the proposal in a Truth Social post, saying any trial in the cases against him should wait until after the presidential election.

The judge will ultimately decide the trial start date, a decision she is likely to make by the end of this month.

CNN's Katelyn Polantz contributed reporting to this post.

1:55 p.m. ET, August 11, 2023

Judge says she sees no evidence Department of Justice's election case against Trump "is politically motivated"

US District Judge Tanya Chutkan speaks to Trump attorney John Lauro during Friday's hearing. Bill Hennessy
During a back-and-forth over whether former President Donald Trump would be able to view materials in the 2020 election interference case outside the presence of an attorney, Judge Tanya Chutkan pushed back against suggestions that the Justice Department’s case against Trump is political. 
“I see a desire to move this case along,” Chutkan said, adding that she doesn’t see “any evidence that this is politically motivated.”

Trump’s attorney John Lauro repeatedly suggested the Justice Department could be attempting to hurt Trump’s ability to campaign in the 2024 election and said the former president would be “bogged down” by certain aspects of a protective order over discovery in the case.

During Friday’s hearing, Chutkan repeatedly said she would handle the case as any other.

The hearing has concluded, and the judge is expected to issue an order soon.

2:13 p.m. ET, August 11, 2023

Special counsel prosecutor jabs Trump for holding onto material "he knows he shouldn’t have"

Former President Donald Trump has “shown a desire to hold onto material that he knows he shouldn’t have,” prosecutor Tom Windom said during Friday's hearing. Bill Hennessy
A special counsel prosecutor referred to Donald Trump's criminal case in Florida during the hearing Friday, saying that the former president has shown a "desire" to keep documents he should not have.
The comment came during a disagreement over whether Trump would be allowed to review sensitive evidence in the 2020 election interference case without one of his lawyers present. 

Prosecutor Tom Windom asked US District Judge Tanya Chutkan to limit Trump’s ability to review that discovery alone, saying that if he were alone, Trump could “elect to photocopy or otherwise reproduce, take a photo” of information that cannot be shared publicly.

Trump has “shown a desire to hold onto material that he knows he shouldn’t have,” Windom said during the disagreement.

When defense lawyer John Lauro responded that Trump would abide by any rules the judge imposed on handling sensitive evidence, Windom doubled down, saying that “defense counsel has a certain level of trust in the defendant that the government does not.”

The hearing in Washington, DC, concerns the criminal case over Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election. The special counsel’s other case concerning his handling of classified documents is in Florida.  
11:25 a.m. ET, August 11, 2023

Judge says Trump team can't share evidence with volunteers helping in 2020 election case

Trump attorneys John Lauro, left, and Todd Blanche, right, arrive at the courthouse on Friday. Win McNamee/Getty Images
US District Judge Tanya Chutkan said she would adopt rules proposed by prosecutors to limit who on Donald Trump’s team can access the evidence in the 2020 election interference case, rejecting the former president’s request that the language be broadened so that volunteers and other people not directly employed by the defense team could also review discovery. 
“I am not comfortable with that broad a definition, which could include just about anyone and would significantly increase the risk of unauthorized disclosure,” she said.

Trump lawyer John Lauro tried to push back, telling the judge, “In order to defend this case, we have to have more help.”

The judge held firm. She told the attorney that she could not allow “anyone, including individuals who I might note could be unindicted co-conspirators, to have access to discovery.”

Prosecutors had argued in a court filing that the Trump’s proposed language for who could access the discovery could allow access to unidentified coconspirators in the case who are also attorneys. The judge repeated her concerns that the Trump request was too broad.

“I live in Washington. Everyone is a consultant,” the judge said at one point, waving off Trump’s request.
11:16 a.m. ET, August 11, 2023

Judge warns Trump that release conditions in 2020 election case prohibit witness intimidation

Former President Donald Trump gets ready to board a plane in Arlington, Virginia, last week. Alex Brandon/AP/File
Judge Tanya Chutkan issued a warning to Donald Trump — pointing to his release conditions in the 2020 election interference case that already prohibit the former president from intimidating witnesses.
“The defendant is covered my conditions of release, and all his behavior and statements are covered by conditions of release,” Chutkan said.

Whether or not Trump’s public statements are covered by the protective order, she said, if they result in the intimidation of a witness or the obstruction of justice, “I will be scrutinizing them very carefully.”

Trump’s lawyer John Lauro said that “President Trump will scrupulously abide by his conditions of release.”

Chutkan issued the warning to Trump after siding with him on a dispute over the scope of the protective order.

1:58 p.m. ET, August 11, 2023

Judge in 2020 election case says Trump’s campaign "has to yield to the administration of justice"

Judge Tanya Chutkan speaks during Friday's hearing. Bill Hennessy
Judge Tanya Chutkan had a pointed exchange with Donald Trump’s lawyer about what the former president and 2024 candidate should be allowed to say about the evidence that is turned over to him in the special counsel's 2020 election interference case.
“The fact that he is running a political campaign currently has to yield to the administration of justice. And if that means he can't say exactly what he wants to say in a political speech, that is just how it’s going to have to be,” Chutkan said to Trump attorney John Lauro during Friday's hearing.

She raised the prospect that Trump’s public commentary about the evidence in the case could intimidate witnesses. Chutkan asked what if Trump was “denigrating a witness” to a “worldwide audience.”

Laura said: “You may have Mr. Pence in mind?”

Chutkan said she meant “any witness” and then said: “The defendant’s desire to conduct a campaign, to respond to political opponents, has to yield.”

Lauro tried to pivot to how the prosecutors had set up what would be deemed sensitive evidence under the proposed protective order.

“No one disagrees that any speech that intimidates a witness would be prohibited, what we are talking about is fair use of information,” Lauro said, putting forward a hypothetical that Trump is publicly remarking on something from his personal memory that is also evidence in the case.

Lauro said that “in a heated moment” someone might say something that prosecutors had put a flag on.

The judge told Lauro that she would “ensure that your client is entitled to all the rights” he is afforded.

Chutktan said that “the existence of a political campaign is not going to have a bearing” on how she handles the case.

“I intend to keep politics out of this,” she said.

10:48 a.m. ET, August 11, 2023

Trump’s First Amendment rights are "not absolute," judge says

Former President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Windham, New Hampshire, on Tuesday. Robert F. Bukaty/AP
Before digging into arguments over the discovery rules in the 2020 election subversion case, federal Judge Tanya Chutkan previewed her approach to the First Amendment, stating that former President Donald Trump has a right to free speech but that right is “not absolute.” 
“Mr. Trump, like every American, has a First Amendment right to free speech, but that right is not absolute. In a criminal case such as this one, the defendant’s free speech is subject to the rules,” she said. 

“Without a protective order, a party could release information that could taint the jury pool, intimidate witnesses or others involved in some aspect of the case, or otherwise interfere with the process of justice,” she added.

Some background on the case: Trump has already said he will be asking for Chutkan to recuse herself from the case, writing on social media that there is "no way" she will provide a fair trial.
Federal prosecutors are asking for a protective order restricting what Trump and his team can do with evidence shared with them through discovery in the 2020 election case. Prosecutors point to Trump’s public statements that they say could have a “harmful chilling effect on witnesses or adversely affect the fair administration of justice in this case.”

Prosecutors pointed to Trump’s Truth Social post last week that read: “IF YOU GO AFTER ME, I’M COMING AFTER YOU!”

Chutkan denied a deadline extension request from Trump’s legal team to respond to the protective order request.