OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author’s opinion.
A federal judge signed off on a “secret subpoena” involving a case filed against Donald Trump by special counsel Jack Smith that, in the view of one legal expert, made a “facially absurd” claim about the former president.
As noted in a short column posted on Thursday by Georgetown University law professor Jonathan Turley, “the disclosure of a subpoena of Twitter by Special Counsel Jack Smith was surprising in a number of respects,” he wrote, including the massive $350,000 fine on the social media company imposed by U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell, an Obama appointee.
But it wasn’t just the fine that got his attention.
“…he two most surprising, and concerning, elements were that the subpoena was secret and Howell justified it, in part, on Trump being a flight risk. Neither seems warranted in this case even assuming that the subpoena was in other respects warranted.”
The lower court noted, “The district court found that there were ‘reasonable grounds to believe’ that disclosing the warrant to former President Trump ‘would seriously jeopardize the ongoing investigation’ by giving him ‘an opportunity to destroy evidence, change patterns of behavior, notify confederates.'”
Turley went on to explain why he found the flight risk claim so baseless.
“Judge Howell actually agreed that the former President was a flight risk. Process that for a second,” Turley wrote. “Trump has 24/7 security. So Howell agreed that he might shake his sizable security detail, evade them, and go on the lam. He is one of the most recognized figures in the world. He would have to go to Mars to live incognito.
“It is facially absurd. Trump has been sued and criminally charged across the country. He has never made a break for it. Where would he go? Cuba?” he asked, adding: “The finding of a flight risk undermines the credibility of the court’s order. This is not to question the ability to force the release of the information. However, the need for secrecy is far from evident. Rather it succeeded in preventing any challenge.”
Earlier this week, Trump appeared ready to defy a court order sought by Smith that would limit what he could say publicly about his Jan. 6 case.
On Tuesday, Trump pledged that he “will talk” about the criminal charges he is now facing over allegations he attempted to overturn the 2020 election, accusing federal prosecutors of “taking away my First Amendment rights,” as NBC News reported.
The outlet added:
Last week, Special Counsel Jack Smith asked U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan to impose a so-called protective order that would prevent Trump from disclosing evidence the government turns over to his lawyers as part of the discovery process.
Trump’s own lawyers chose not to object to a protective order and instead requested that the judge put in place a version that is “less restrictive” than the one proposed by the government. Trump’s lawyers asked Chutkan to shield only “genuinely sensitive materials” in order to protect his rights.
But Trump is fighting on multiple fronts as he tries to beat three indictments and win back the presidency. On Tuesday, when he chided prosecutors and President Joe Biden, Trump was battling in the political arena at a rally here.
Trump said President Joe Biden “wants the thug prosecutor, this deranged guy, to file a court order taking away my First Amendment rights so that I can’t speak,” to a raucous crowd in Windham, N.H.
He said not answering questions from the media about the case is “not good for votes” as he angles for a rematch with Biden next year.
“I will talk about it, I will,” he said. “They’re not taking away my First Amendment rights.”