A former Justice Department (DOJ) official criticized former President Trump for his “risky” rhetoric after federal prosecutors moved to limit what he can say about the federal elections case.
DOJ special counsel Jack Smith requested a limit on what Trump can say publicly regarding case testimony and witnesses, fearful that Trump could negatively impact the prosecution. Trump responded by saying Smith “wants to take away my right of speaking freely.”
“It’s a risky business,” Tom Dupree, who served under the George W. Bush administration as a principal deputy assistant attorney general, told CNN’s Jake Tapper on Friday.
“He’s playing with fire, to some extent in making these comments,” Dupree continued, “Because I don’t think this is a judge who is going to stand for a lot of this stuff.”
Smith’s case against Trump alleges that he helped orchestrate a scheme to overturn the 2020 election results. The former president has been charged with conspiracy to defraud the U.S., obstruction and other lesser charges.
Dupree said he expects Judge Tanya Chutkan to agree with federal prosecutors and impose some limit on Trump’s conduct, or at least warn him and his attorneys that she may in the future.
“I would expect that [Chutkan] will take this very serious and that she may either admonish the president, she may instruct his lawyers to direct their client to knock if off,” he said.
Trump has long made a habit of criticizing his opponents in public, including those who could serve as witnesses in the case’s upcoming trial — such as former Vice President Mike Pence.
“It’s a different world now that you’re in court,” Dupree said. “It’s one thing to make those comments in the context of a political campaign or the political fray, it’s another thing to make it when you are a criminal defendant and you are making comments about witnesses who are poised to testify against you.”
The federal election fraud case is scheduled to go to trial in March.
The former president faces three other criminal cases for the falsification of business records, alleged effort to remain in power after losing in 2020 to President Biden and the mishandling of classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago resort. Smith is also handling the documents case.
Trump’s bevy of legal troubles have filled his calendar in the upcoming months, with all three cases scheduled to go to trial early next year and multiple civil cases also pending.