Special Counsel Jack Smith has requested D.C. Judge Tanya Chutkan “impose reasonable boundaries […] of prohibiting public identification of potential or selected jurors,” in Donald Trump’s 2024 election interference trial.
In a Tuesday filing to D.C.’s District Court, Smith wrote that “in light of the public attention that is expected [at the trial], and the defendant’s record of using public social media platforms in an intimidating manner,” the court should impose standard practices to ensure the protection of jury members, as well as impose “additional clear guidelines for use of information regarding potential jurors.”
Those measures include the use of a preliminary questionnaire to aid in expediting the jury selection process, a prohibition on research into potential jurors “beyond what is publicly available,” a restriction from “asking to ‘follow’ or ‘friend’ anyone, or make any analogous affirmative request, to gain access to posts or profiles that are not otherwise publicly available,” and the enforcement of rules preventing the public distribution of jurors names or identifying information.
Jury selection for the trial is expected to begin in December. Trump is facing four criminal counts related to his efforts to subvert the results of the 2020 election, and around the events of Jan. 6: conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, obstruction of, and attempt to obstruct, an official proceeding, and conspiracy against rights.
Trump’s public statements regarding the case have already become a point of contention for Smith and other prosecutors overseeing the various indictments against Trump. In September, Smith requested a partial gag order barring Trump from making public statements that could be perceived as intimidation against witnesses, court personnel, potential jurors, and attorneys.
Last week, New York Judge Arthur Engoron, who is overseeing the state’s civil fraud lawsuit against Trump, slapped the president with a partial gag order after he publicly targeted a member of Engoron’s staff.
The judge warned that “failure to abide by this order will result in serious sanctions.”
Smith cited Engoron’s ruling in his own request for protection, explaining that “just last week the defendant escalated his conduct and publicly attacked the trial judge’s law clerk in his pending civil fraud trial in New York State Supreme Court […] As a result, the judge in that case was forced to issue an oral order that no party speak publicly about members of the court staff.”
“Given that the defendant — after apparently reviewing opposition research on court staff — chose to use social media to publicly attack a court staffer, there is cause for concern about what he may do with social media research on potential jurors in this case. It is therefore necessary for the Court to employ the limited restrictions described above,” Smith wrote.