Judge in Mar-a-Lago case asked to curb Trump’s speech after false FBI claim

<span>Donald Trump outside Manhattan criminal court on 21 May 2024 in New York.</span><span>Photograph: Michael M Santiago/AP</span>
Donald Trump outside Manhattan criminal court on 21 May 2024 in New York.Photograph: Michael M Santiago/AP

Federal prosecutors on Friday asked the judge in Florida overseeing the classified documents case against Donald Trump to bar the former president from public statements that “pose a significant, imminent and foreseeable danger to law enforcement agents” participating in the prosecution.

The request was made to the federal district judge in the case, Aileen Cannon. It follows a distorted claim by Trump earlier this week that the FBI agents who searched his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, in August 2022 were “authorized to shoot me” and were “locked and loaded ready to take me out and put my family in danger”.

On Thursday, the US attorney general, Merrick Garland, called Trump’s characterization false and dangerous.

Trump was referring to the disclosure in a court document that the FBI, during the search, had followed a standard use-of-force policy that prohibits the use of deadly force except when the officer conducting the search has a reasonable belief that the “subject of such force poses an imminent danger of death or serious physical injury to the officer or to another person”.

Trump and his family were not at Mar-a-Lago when the FBI searched the premises. Prosecutors said that the search had been planned that way, so that the Trumps would be out of state, and it was coordinated in advance with the US secret service, which guards former and sitting presidents. No force was used in the raid.

The US justice department policy about deadly force is routine and meant to limit, rather than encourage, violence during searches.

Prosecutors on special counsel Jack Smith’s team said in court papers late on Friday that Trump’s statements falsely suggesting that federal agents “were complicit in a plot to assassinate him” and expose law enforcement – some of whom prosecutors noted will be called as witnesses at his trial – “to the risk of threats, violence and harassment”.

“Trump’s repeated mischaracterization of these facts in widely distributed messages as an attempt to kill him, his family and secret service agents has endangered law enforcement officers involved in the investigation and prosecution of this case and threatened the integrity of these proceedings,” prosecutors told Cannon, who was nominated to the bench by Trump.

“A restriction prohibiting future similar statements does not restrict legitimate speech,” they said.

Defense lawyers have objected to the government’s motion, prosecutors said. An attorney for Trump didn’t immediately respond to a message seeking comment on Friday night.

Trump campaign spokesperson Steven Cheung said in a statement on Friday: “Repeated attempts to silence President Trump during the presidential campaign are blatant attempts to interfere in the election. They are last ditch efforts of desperate Democrat radicals running a losing campaign for a failed president.”

Trump faces dozens of felony counts accusing him of illegally hoarding classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago estate that he took with him after he left the White House in 2021, and then obstructing the FBI’s efforts to get them back. He has pleaded not guilty and denied wrongdoing.

The Associated Press contributed reporting