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Special counsel seeks limits on Trump's statements in elections case

Former U.S. President Donald Trump and Special Counsel Jack Smith

By Kanishka Singh and Eric Beech

(Reuters) -U.S. Special Counsel Jack Smith is asking a judge to impose limits on statements from former President Donald Trump regarding a Washington, D.C., court case over his attempt to overturn his 2020 election defeat, according to a court filing on Friday.

"The defendant has an established practice of issuing inflammatory public statements targeted at individuals or institutions that present an obstacle or challenge to him," Smith said in a filing in U.S. District Court asking Judge Tanya Chutkan to impose some "narrow" limits on Trump's statements outside of court.

"This demonstrates the need to protect potential jurors from fear of threats and harassment that stem from the defendant's (Trump's) disparaging and inflammatory public statements," prosecutors wrote.

Prosecutors want Trump restricted from giving statements about "the identity, testimony, or credibility of prospective witnesses." They also want restrictions on comments about "any party, witness, attorney, court personnel, or potential jurors that are disparaging and inflammatory, or intimidating."

Chutkan has given Trump's legal team until Sept. 25 to respond to the government's request.

In a statement to supporters on Saturday, Trump accused the administration of President Joe Biden of attempting to impose a gag order on him.

"Joe Biden is trying to stop his leading opponent (me) from publicly speaking out against him and his corrupt, radical, and incompetent regime," he said.

Trump, the front-runner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, has been charged with four felony counts for allegedly plotting to subvert the 2020 election results. It is one of four criminal cases he faces. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Chutkan previously warned Trump against making statements that could threaten witnesses or taint the jury pool. As a condition of his release, he also agreed not to make threats against those involved in the case.

Earlier this week Trump filed a motion asking Chutkan to recuse herself from the case, saying that her prior statements about some defendants in previous Jan. 6 cases reveal bias.

Chutkan last month set a trial date of March 4 for the federal case in Washington.

That is one day before "Super Tuesday," a potentially decisive date in the Republican presidential race, when states from Maine to California will hold their nominating contests. Opinion polls show Trump leading his rivals by a wide margin.

(Reporting by Kanishka Singh and Eric Beech; Writing by David Ljunggren; Additional reporting by Sarah N Lynch; Editing by Caitlin Webber, Dan Whitcomb, Scott Malone, Alistair Bell and Daniel Wallis)