US prosecutors have flagged a social media post from Donald Trump in a court filing, 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 of orchestrating a criminal conspiracy to overturn his 2020 presidential election loss to Democrat Joe Biden.
He entered his plea just half a mile from the US Capitol – the building his supporters stormed on 6 January, 2021 in an effort to prevent Congress from certifying his defeat.
In a document filed in Washington federal court late on Friday, the office of Special Counsel Jack Smith – the lawyer appointed to prosecute Mr Trump – said the post raised concerns that he might publicly reveal secret material, such as grand jury transcripts, obtained from prosecutors.
Under the process known as discovery, prosecutors are required to provide defendants with the evidence against them so they can prepare their defence.
“It could have a harmful chilling effect on witnesses or adversely affect the fair administration of justice in this case,” prosecutors wrote, noting that Mr Trump has a history of attacking judges, attorneys and witnesses in other cases against him.
At his arraignment on Thursday, Mr Trump swore not to intimidate witnesses or communicate with them without legal counsel present.
The filing asked US District Judge Tanya Chutkan to issue a protective order prohibiting Mr Trump and his lawyers from sharing any discovery materials with unauthorised people.
Protective orders are routine in cases involving confidential documents, but prosecutors said it was particularly important to restrict public dissemination given Mr Trump’s social media statements.
A spokesperson for Mr Trump 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.
The latest indictment is the third criminal case brought against the 77-year-old former president in less than six months, after he was first charged in New York with falsifying business records in connection with a hush money payment to an adult film actress during the 2016 presidential campaign.
Mr Trump is also accused of 40 felony counts in Florida for allegedly retaining classified documents at his Palm Beach estate, Mar-a-Lago, and refusing government demands to give them back.
He faces a possible fourth indictment in Georgia, where Atlanta prosecutors have been investigating his efforts to overturn the election results there.
The 77-year-old has portrayed all of the investigations as part of a political witch hunt intended to stymie his 2024 campaign.
Additional reporting by Reuters