Former president Donald Trump arrives at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington, Va. on Thursday, August 3, 2023 after appearing at E. Barrett Prettyman United States Court House. Trump pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges that he conspired to overturn the results of the 2020 election at a court appearance in Washington, DC.
Tom Brenner | The Washington Post | Getty Images
U.S. prosecutors flagged a threatening social media post from Donald Trump in a late-night court filing on Friday, arguing that it suggests he might intimidate witnesses by improperly disclosing confidential evidence received from the government.
On his Truth Social site, the former president wrote, “IF YOU GO AFTER ME, I’M COMING AFTER YOU!” on Friday afternoon, a day after he pleaded not guilty to charges that he orchestrated a criminal conspiracy to try to reverse his 2020 election loss to Democrat Joe Biden.
Meanwhile, in Georgia, where other prosecutors are investigating Trump’s efforts to overturn the election results in that state, security was tightened around the Fulton County courthouse in Atlanta as the city prepares for the possible announcement of what would be Trump’s fourth criminal indictment this year.
In the filing in Washington federal court, the office of Special Counsel Jack Smith said Trump’s social media post raised concerns that he might publicly reveal secret material, such as grand jury transcripts, obtained from prosecutors.
It sought a protective order prohibiting Trump and his lawyers from sharing any discovery materials with unauthorized people.
On Saturday, U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan gave Trump until 5 p.m. on Monday to respond.
Under the process known as discovery, prosecutors are required to provide defendants with the evidence against them so they can prepare their defense.
“It could have a harmful chilling effect on witnesses or adversely affect the fair administration of justice in this case,” prosecutors wrote in their filing, adding Trump has a history of attacking judges, attorneys and witnesses in other cases against him.
At his arraignment on Thursday, Trump swore not to intimidate witnesses or communicate with them without legal counsel present.
Protective orders are routine in cases involving confidential documents, but prosecutors said it was particularly important to restrict public dissemination given Trump’s social media statements.
A Trump spokesperson issued a statement defending the former president’s social media post.
“The Truth post cited is the definition of political speech, and was in response to the Rino, China-loving, dishonest special interest groups and super PAC’s,” the statement said.
For at least the next two weeks, officials are locking down security around the courthouse in Atlanta. Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis has indicated she plans to bring charges in that investigation within weeks.
While the downtown court building will remain open, officials are closing surrounding roads to general traffic and have told most employees to work from home, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. Magistrate court hearings, typically held for minor criminal and civil cases, will be conducted virtually.
The sheriff’s office has canceled all time off for the next few weeks and police are working 12-hour shifts, the AJC reported. Orange barricades began appearing around the courthouse last month, as officials prepared for potential demonstrations should Trump be indicted in the coming weeks.
Trump has pleaded not guilty in two other criminal cases. He faces federal charges in Miami for allegedly retaining classified documents after leaving office and obstructing justice, and state charges in Manhattan for allegedly falsifying business records to hide hush money payments to a porn star.
The former president has capitalized on his indictments since the first charges were filed in April, increasing his lead in the Republican nomination contest over his closest rival, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.
While Trump has solidified his status as the front-runner despite the growing array of legal troubles, public opinion polls show, those legal problems do pose a risk to his presidential bid: about half of Republicans would not vote for Trump if he were convicted of a felony, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll that closed on Thursday.
Trump has portrayed all of the investigations as part of a political witch hunt intended to stymie his 2024 campaign.