Prosecutors seek to prevent Trump from attacking FBI agents in document case

Federal prosecutors on Friday night urged the judge overseeing former President Donald J. Trump’s classified documents case to block him from making any statements that could endanger law enforcement agents involved in the proceedings.

Prosecutors made the request after Mr Trump made “wildly misleading” claims about an FBI search of Mar-a-Lago, his private club and residence in Florida, in August 2022. This week, the former president falsely claimed that the FBI was given the authority to shoot agents when they found more than 100 classified documents while executing a court-approved search warrant there.

In a social media post on Tuesday, Mr Trump falsely claimed that President Biden “authorised the FBI to use deadly force” during the search.

Mr Trump’s post came in response to an FBI operational plan for the Mar-a-Lago search, which was made public on Tuesday as part of a legal motion filed by Mr Trump’s lawyers. The plan included a boilerplate reference to allowing the use of deadly force in emergency cases, which prosecutors said Mr Trump grossly distorted.

“As Trump well knows, the FBI took extraordinary care to execute the search warrant without obstruction and unnecessary confrontation,” prosecutors wrote in a motion to Judge Ellen M. Cannon, who is overseeing the case over the classified documents.

“They scheduled the search of Mar-a-Lago for a time when he and his family would be away,” prosecutors said. “They planned to coordinate with Trump’s attorney, Secret Service agents, and Mar-a-Lago employees before and during the execution of the warrant; and they planned for contingencies — which never actually occurred — about whom to communicate with if Trump arrived on the scene.”

The request to Judge Cannon was the first time prosecutors in the office of special counsel Jack Smith have sought to restrict Mr. Trump’s public statements in a confidential documents case. But Mr. Trump, who has repeatedly attacked witnesses, court officials and others in his four criminal cases, has gag orders in place in two of his other three cases.

Prosecutors did not impose a gag order on Mr. Trump over the classified documents matter, but instead asked Judge Cannon to modify the conditions of his release to prevent him from making any public comments “that pose a significant, imminent and foreseeable threat to law enforcement agents participating in the investigation.”

Still, if Judge Cannon agrees to the request, it would mean that Mr. Trump could be detained if he violates the amended conditions.

According to a motion filed by prosecutors, Mr. Trump’s lawyers objected to the request and complained that it was made over a holiday weekend. The lawyers did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

In recent days, Mr. Smith’s team has shown signs of losing patience with Mr. Trump and his lawyers. And, as prosecutors said, the former president’s “intentionally false and inflammatory statements” about the Mar-a-Lago search appeared to cross a line that required a serious response.

As an initial matter, prosecutors explained in their motion to Judge Cannon that the deadly force language Mr. Trump had torn apart was a “standard and not objectionable” provision routinely used in “countless warrants across the country.”

The measure clearly stipulates that the use of deadly force is prohibited except in cases of “imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury” and adds a clause to warrants restricting the use of weapons during searches.

But prosecutors said Mr. Trump “falsely distorted these standard practices into a scheme to kill him, his family and U.S. Secret Service agents.”

By falsely claiming that FBI agents were “engaged in a plot to assassinate him,” Mr. Trump put him “at risk of threats, violence, and harassment,” prosecutors wrote.

“Those misleading and inflammatory statements irresponsibly targeted the FBI agents involved in this case, as Trump is well aware,” prosecutors wrote.

To buttress their point, prosecutors reminded Judge Cannon that a few days after the Mar-a-Lago search — a legal investigative move that Mr. Trump denounced on social media as an attack against him — an armed man in Ohio tried to shoot at an FBI field office near Cincinnati.

The man, Ricky W. Schiffer, said at the time that “patriots” should go to Florida to defend Mr. Trump and kill FBI agents. Mr. Schiffer was eventually killed in a shootout with local police.

Mr Trump already faces a gag order in another federal case in Washington, where he is accused of conspiring to overturn the 2020 election. That case has been pending for months as the Supreme Court considers Mr Trump’s claim that he is immune from the charges because they arose from actions he took while he was president.

Mr Trump is also under a gag order in his state trial in Manhattan, where he is accused of paying a porn star to keep quiet on the eve of the 2016 election. The judge overseeing that proceeding has twice held Mr Trump in contempt and fined him $10,000 for intimidating witnesses and jurors in the case.