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Judge denies Trump's bid to hold special counsel Jack Smith in contempt

By Ehren Wynder
The federal judge in Donald Trump's presidential immunity case argued special counsel Jack Smith's (pictured in August) actions were not prohibited while the case was paused. Smith, however, must now get permission before filing additional motions while the stay order is in effect. File Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI
The federal judge in Donald Trump's presidential immunity case argued special counsel Jack Smith's (pictured in August) actions were not prohibited while the case was paused. Smith, however, must now get permission before filing additional motions while the stay order is in effect. File Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 18 (UPI) -- A federal judge overseeing former President Donald Trump's election interference case denied his request to hold special counsel Jack Smith in contempt for submitting court filings while the case is paused.

In her ruling Thursday, Judge Tanya Chutkan said the order to stay the case pending Trump's appeal of an unfavorable ruling did not "clearly and unambiguously prohibit" Smith's actions.

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Chutkan did, however, say Smith's filings placed a "cognizable" but not "major" burden on the defense and granted Trump's request that Smith must get her permission before filing any other pretrial motions.

"This measure is an addition to the stay order, aimed to further advance its purposes, and does not reflect a determination that the government has violated any of its clear and unambiguous terms or acted in bad faith," Chutkan wrote.

Chutkan also ordered both parties to seek her permission to file-pre trial motions while the stay order remains in effect.

Trump asked Chutkan to go further and demand Smith justify why he should not be held in contempt or be forced to withdraw his motion. His lawyers also argued Smith should cover Trump's legal cost for preparing the brief asking for Chutkan to intervene.

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Trump lawyer John Lauro accused Smith of "partisan-driven misconduct " by "unlawfully" producing evidence and filing a motion in the case after its deadlines had been stayed.

Smith's office responded to Trump's legal team, saying he informed all parties in the case that he would continue to voluntarily comply with the previously established deadline.

The former president faces charges of illegally conspiring to overturn his 2020 election loss to President Joe Biden. The case stalled last month while Trump appealed Chutkan's refusal to dismiss the charges due to his presidential immunity.

Trump is waiting for a federal appeals court to rule whether he is immune from being prosecuted over his election interference efforts because he was president at the time. A panel of federal appeals court judges last week heard oral arguments on Trump's claim.

The trial in the election case is scheduled to begin on March 4, although Chutkan said it could be delayed as the courts consider these legal matters.

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