Judge in Trump election case sets Friday hearing on protective order

WASHINGTON — The judge presiding over Donald Trump’s election case has ordered attorneys from both sides to meet in court on Friday to discuss proposed restrictions on what the former president can publicly disclose about evidence gathered in the investigation against him.

U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan had ordered special counsel Jack Smith’s office and Trump’s lawyers to pick a date on or before Friday for a hearing on a dispute over competing protective order proposals that would enable the government to start handing over evidence to Trump’s team.

Trump’s attorneys — John Lauro and Todd Blanche — contend that the prosecution’s proposed order is too broad and could partly muzzle their client, who’s the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination. Federal prosecutors countered in a court filing that Trump’s proposed revisions to their order were “designed to allow him to try this case in the media rather than in the courtroom.”

At a Tuesday rally in New Hampshire before the judge issued her order, Trump portrayed the government’s proposed order as an assault on his First Amendment rights.

“I will talk about it, I will. They’re not taking away my First Amendment rights,” Trump told the crowd.

Attorneys for Trump did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the Friday hearing or the former president’s rally remarks.

The special counsel’s office declined comment.

The judge’s order for Friday’s hearing followed a joint filing earlier Tuesday in which the special counsel’s office said it was available for a hearing on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday.

Trump’s team said Thursday was no good for them because Blanche is due in federal court in Florida for his client’s arraignment on a superseding indictment in a separate prosecution brought by Smith’s office alleging Trump mishandled national security documents and tried to cover it up.

The defense instead asked that the hearing be held on Monday or Tuesday of next week, but did not explain what their issues were with this Wednesday or Friday, except to say they’d “lost Friday as an option.”

In a terse ruling late Tuesday, Chutkan ordered both sides to appear before her at 11 a.m. ET on Friday.

Meanwhile, members of the grand jury that voted to indict Trump were seen back at work in the E. Barrett Prettyman Courthouse in Washington, D.C., Tuesday morning. It was not clear whether they were hearing testimony from witnesses. They departed the courthouse around 1:30 p.m. ET.

The four-count indictment accusing Trump of using “unlawful means” to try to stay in power alleged that he carried out his schemes with help of six co-conspirators — four attorneys, a Justice Department official and a political consultant.

Trump has pleaded not guilty to the charges and maintains the probe is part of a Democratic “witch hunt” against him.

While the alleged co-conspirators aren’t named in the indictment, NBC News has been able to identify five of the six based on details in the court filing and transcripts of testimony to the Jan. 6 Committee and other records. The five appear to be former New York City Mayor and longtime Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani; lawyers John Eastman and Kenneth Chesebro, architects of the “fake electors scheme“; attorney Sidney Powell, who helped lead Trump’s post-campaign legal efforts and promoted conspiracy theories; and former Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark, who tried to put the weight of the DOJ behind Trump’s debunked fraud claims.

Attorneys for Giuliani and Eastman have acknowledged their clients appear to be identified as co-conspirators and have denied they did anything illegal.

Representatives for Powell, Clark and Chesebro have not responded to requests for comment.

On Monday, Smith’s team interviewed former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik in connection with the election probe.

The interview lasted for about five hours, and largely focused on the work Kerik performed investigating voter fraud allegations on behalf of Giuliani, his longtime friend and former boss, Kerik lawyer Timothy Parlatore said Monday.

Daniel Barnes reported from Washington, Dareh Gregorian from New York.

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