US federal judge sets hearing for Trump trial evidence handling

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A federal judge presiding over former President Donald Trump’s trial on charges of trying to overturn the 2020 election has ordered his attorneys and federal prosecutors to appear in court on Friday for a hearing to help determine how evidence can be used and shared in the case.

US District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan set the hearing for Friday at 10 a.m. ET (1400 GMT), shortly after Trump’s attorneys and members of US Special Counsel Jack Smith’s office had clashed in a joint court over when to schedule the proceeding.

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Prosecutors had said they were available all week, while Trump’s lawyers had asked for a postponement until early next week.

Friday’s hearing comes after Trump’s defense team on Monday opposed a request from prosecutors for Chutkan to impose a protective order to ensure confidential evidence is not shared publicly by Trump, suggesting he could use the information to intimidate witnesses. Trump has pleaded not guilty and called the charges politically motivated.

Trump’s attorneys said limits would infringe on his right to free speech, protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution.

Trump is not expected to be present in the courtroom on Friday, after Chutkan waived his appearance.

Typically, defense lawyers do not oppose such protective orders because doing so can delay the government from producing the evidence it intends to use at trial in a process known as discovery.

The disagreement between the parties over the hearing date represented the latest effort by Trump’s team to delay or slow legal proceedings.

It also underscored the logistical challenges that Trump’s team may have as it continues to represent him in two separate federal criminal cases brought by Smith’s office, one in Washington, D.C., and the other in southern Florida, where Trump is charged with retaining highly classified records after leaving the White House and obstructing the government’s efforts to have the records returned. Trump also pleaded not guilty in that case.

One of Trump’s attorneys, Todd Blanche, will be in federal court in Florida on Thursday for an arraignment, after the government filed a superseding indictment that charged Trump with additional criminal counts and also charged another one of his employees in the case.

In the joint Washington filing, Trump’s lawyers said Trump wished for both Blanche and his other lawyer John Lauro to be present for the hearing before Chutkan.

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