By Susan Heavey
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A lawyer for Donald Trump on Sunday argued that any actions the former president took after his 2020 re-election loss were “aspirational asks,” and balked at a proposed order aimed at protecting witnesses and evidence in the case.
John Lauro, in a round of television interviews, defended Republican Trump’s actions that led to charges that he conspired to defraud the U.S. by preventing Congress from certifying Democratic President Joe Biden’s victory, depriving U.S. voters of their right to a fair election.
“Every single thing that President Trump is being prosecuted for involved aspirational asks – Asking state legislatures, asking state governors, asking state electoral officials to do the right thing. In fact, even asking Vice President Pence was protected by free speech,” Lauro told Fox News.
Trump, who pleaded not guilty in court last week, faces four federal charges in the election case.
Lauro said a protective order sought by the Department of Justice on Friday would “deny all Americans the opportunity to learn non-sensitive information about what the case involves in a political season” as Trump runs for president again in 2024.
The proposed order would also “prevent the press from obtaining exculpatory and material information that might be relevant to these proceedings,” he told “Fox News Sunday.”
Special Counsel Jack Smith on Friday sought a protective order prohibiting Trump and his lawyers from sharing discovery materials with unauthorized people, citing a Trump social media post that raised concerns that the former president might publicly reveal secret material obtained from prosecutors as the case proceeds.
On Saturday, U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan denied Trump’s bid to delay his formal response to the proposed order due on Monday at 5 p.m. (2100 GMT).
Smith’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Lauro’s remarks.
However, Smith told the court in his response to Trump’s proposed delay on Saturday that the federal government was ready to give Trump’s legal team its discovery materials once the protective order was in place: “The defendant is standing in the way.”
Trump, 77, has been indicted in three cases and denies all the charges against him. He pleaded not guilty to separate charges by Smith over his handling of classified documents, including top secret materials, after he left office in January 2021. Her also pleaded not guilty to New York state charges in Manhattan that he falsified business records to hide hush money payments to a porn star ahead of the 2016 election.
Trump continued to lash out on Sunday, calling Smith “deranged,” accusing the U.S. Justice Department of being “highly partisan” and saying he cannot get a fair trial in Washington. He also questioned the timing of the charges. He is the front-runner for the Republican nomination in the 2024 election.
(Reporting by Susan Heavey, Kanishka Singh and Leah Douglas; Editing by Heather Timmons and Grant McCool)