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Trump should be barred from blaming others for Jan. 6 riot at trial: Special counsel

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(NEW YORK) — Donald Trump shouldn’t be allowed to make “irrelevant” claims targeting President Joe Biden or say others are to blame for the Jan. 6 Capitol riot during his federal election interference trial, special counsel Jack Smith wrote in a court filing Wednesday.

“Through public statements, filings and argument in hearings before the court, the defense has attempted to inject into this case partisan political attacks and irrelevant and prejudicial issues that have no place in a jury trial,” the filing states.

“Although the court can recognize these efforts for what they are and disregard them, the jury — if subjected to them — may not,” it continues. “The court should not permit the defendant to turn the courtroom into a forum in which he propagates irrelevant disinformation, and should reject his attempt to inject politics into this proceeding.”

The special counsel argues that Trump has suggested “he intends to impeach the integrity of the investigation by raising wholly false claims such as the government’s nonexistent ‘coordination with the Biden administration’ and other empty allegations recycled from the selective and vindictive prosecution motion that he based on anonymous sources in newspaper articles.”

Smith’s team also argues in the filing that Trump should be barred from using “terminology such as the ‘Injustice Department,’ ‘Biden Indictment’ or similar phrases” in front of the jury.

Trump in August pleaded not guilty to the special counsel’s criminal charges of undertaking a “criminal scheme” to overturn the results of the 2020 election by enlisting a slate of so-called “fake electors,” using the Justice Department to conduct “sham election crime investigations,” trying to enlist the vice president to “alter the election results,” and promoting false claims of a stolen election as the Jan. 6 riot raged — all in an effort to subvert democracy and remain in power.

The former president has denied all wrongdoing and denounced the charges as “a persecution of a political opponent.”

In the filing Wednesday, Smith accuses Trump of engaging in a fact-free public disinformation campaign to discredit the indictment that he says must be excluded from tainting his criminal trial, which could be delayed from its anticipated March 4 start date. U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan, who is overseeing the case, has stayed proceedings in the case while the appeals process plays out.

The special counsel also argues that Trump should be prohibited from arguing he was personally tricked by foreign disinformation about the election or that foreign disinformation campaigns led to the Jan. 6 riot.

“To begin with, the defendant has not pointed to a single piece of evidence indicating that foreign influence — rather than his own lies –motivated rioters on January 6,” Smith’s team says. “And in any event, whether others — be they civilians or foreign actors — said untrue things on the internet does not exonerate the defendant for the lies he told to his followers or the criminal steps he took to illegally retain power.”

Another area the special counsel says Trump should be prevented from raising is blaming law enforcement or D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser for failing to protect the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

“A bank robber cannot defend himself by blaming the bank’s security guard for failing to stop him,” the filing reads. “A fraud defendant cannot claim to the jury that his victims should have known better than to fall for his scheme. And the defendant cannot argue that law enforcement should have prevented the violence he caused and obstruction he intended.”

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court denied Smith’s request to immediately take up Trump’s claims of immunity from prosecution in his federal election interference case. In a single-line order, the justices declined to grant a writ of certiorari before judgment — meaning they will allow a federal appeals court to hear the matter first, which is what Trump’s legal team had urged the court to do.

The decision effectively keeps the Supreme Court out of the case for now and could mean the case’s March 4 trial date could be delayed.

 

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