Prosecutors ask judge to take steps to protect potential jurors’ identities in 2020 election case

FILE - Former President Donald Trump pauses before ending his remarks at a rally in Summerville, S.C., Sept. 25, 2023. A New York judge ruled, Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2023, that the former president and his company committed fraud for years while building the real estate empire that catapulted him to fame and the White House. (AP Photo/Artie Walker Jr., File)
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Associated Press

Prosecutors on Tuesday urged the judge overseeing Donald Trump’s election interference case in Washington to take steps to protect the identity of prospective jurors, citing the former president’s “continued use of social media as a weapon of intimidation in court proceedings.”

Special counsel Jack Smith’s team team wants U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan to issue a written questionnaire to help the two sides choose potential jurors. But it also would give lawyers early access to those people’s identifying information in the case accusing the former Republican president of illegally plotting to overturn his election loss to Democrat Joe Biden.

Prosecutors said in court papers they are concerned about what Trump might do with that information, pointing to his recent disparagement of the clerk of the New York judge overseeing Trump’s civil business fraud trial that caused the judge to issue a limited gag order. Trump posted a photo of Judge Arthur Engoron’s principal law clerk, Allison Greenfield, posing with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., at a public event, writing that it was “disgraceful” that Greenfield was working with the judge in the courtroom.

“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,” prosecutors in the election interference case wrote.

Smith’s team is asking the court to bar those involved in the case from “following” or “friending” on social media prospective jurors they are doing research on in order to gain access to private pages. They also want the judge to prohibit both sides from using information gained through juror research for any purpose other than jury selection, and require that the sides make sure that anyone who has access to jury materials understands they cannot publicly disclose the information.

“Such a precaution is not only necessary to ensure that all parties handle sensitive juror information responsibly, but also so that the Court can assure prospective and seated jurors in this case that no party will improperly use their names or other identifying information,” prosecutors wrote.

The government’s motion indicates that defense attorneys oppose it. John Lauro, an attorney for Trump, declined to comment on Tuesday.

The request comes as Chutkan considers another request from prosecutors to issue a narrow gag order to bar Trump from making inflammatory and intimidating comments about lawyers, witnesses and other people involved in the proceedings. Chutkan is scheduled to hold arguments on Monday over that request.