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Special counsel accuses Trump of 'threatening' ex-chief of staff Mark Meadows following ABC News report

Special counsel Jack Smith's team is accusing former President Donald Trump of threatening Trump's former chief of staff, Mark Meadows, after an ABC News report on Tuesday detailed some of what Meadows allegedly told investigators about Trump and the 2020 presidential election, including that he repeatedly told Trump in the weeks following the election that allegations of significant voting fraud coming to them were baseless.

The ABC News report said that, according to sources, Meadows was granted a form of immunity under which the information he provided to the grand jury in March -- before Trump was indicted in Washington -- can't be used against him in a federal prosecution.

After the ABC News report, Trump posted to his social media platform, Truth Social, that he wouldn't expect Meadows to "lie about the Rigged and Stolen" election "merely for getting IMMUNITY," but, "Some people would make that deal."

MORE: Ex-Chief of Staff Mark Meadows granted immunity, tells special counsel he warned Trump about 2020 claims: Sources

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"[T]hey are weaklings and cowards, and so bad for the future of our Failing Nation," Trump wrote.

In a filing Wednesday night to the judge presiding over Trump's federal election interference case in Washington, Smith's team said Trump's "harmful" post on Truth Social was trying to "send an unmistakable and threatening message to a foreseeable witness in this case."

Smith's team argued to U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan that the alleged threat is just one more example of why a limited gag order in the case is needed as soon as possible.

Chutkan had issued such a gag order early last week but then temporarily suspended it after the former president's legal team appealed the judge's order to a higher court.

PHOTO: President Donald Trump speaks as White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows listens prior to departure from the South Lawn of the White House, July 29, 2020. (Alex Wong/Getty Images, FILE)
PHOTO: President Donald Trump speaks as White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows listens prior to departure from the South Lawn of the White House, July 29, 2020. (Alex Wong/Getty Images, FILE)

On Tuesday, citing sources familiar with the matter, ABC News reported that Meadows conceded to investigators earlier this year that -- despite public comments to the contrary -- he never saw any evidence of fraud that would have changed the outcome of the 2020 presidential election, and that he believes the election was the most secure election in U.S. history.

In their filing Wednesday, Smith's team argued that Trump is now trying to "use external influences to distort the trial in his favor," and that "These actions, particularly when directed against witnesses and trial participants, pose a grave threat to the very notion of a fair trial based on the facts and the law."

Trump has a "long and well-documented history of using his public platform to target disparaging and inflammatory comments at perceived adversaries," and "When the defendant does so, harassment, threats, and intimidation foreseeably and predictably follow," Smith's team wrote.

The former president has frequently derided Smith using language that questions his sanity.

The limited gag order that Chutkan issued early last week prohibited Trump or anyone else involved in the case from publicly attacking Smith or his team, Trump's legal team, any court staff, or any potential witnesses in the case.

That left Trump "entirely free to assert his innocence, claim that his prosecution is politically motivated, criticize the platforms and policies of his political opponents, and level all manner of criticism at various institutions and individuals, including the incumbent president and the Department of Justice," Smith's team wrote in their Wednesday filing.

MORE: Judge temporarily halts Trump's limited gag order in federal election interference case

Smith's team is now urging Chutkan to immediately reinstate the gag order, citing, among other things, Trump's "recent social media posts targeting a known witness in this case in an attempt to influence and intimidate him."

Trump's lawyers have argued that even a limited gag order is an unfair violation of Trump's First Amendment rights.

But Smith's team disputed that assertion, writing in its Wednesday filing that "The First Amendment -- particularly when balanced against the bedrock values of a fair trial unaffected by external influence -- does not grant free rein" to make "the sort of fact-free, disparaging, inflammatory, ad hominem attacks that, as the defendant knows, tend to provoke harassment, threats, and intimidation from his followers."

Smith's team noted that shortly after being assigned the case, Chutkan herself "received a racist death threat explicitly tied to the Court's role in presiding over [Trump's] case." The Texas woman who allegedly made the threat from her cell phone has since been charged and is awaiting trial.

MORE: Timeline: Special counsel's probe into Trump's efforts to overturn 2020 election

Smith's team also told Chutkan that -- if she reinstates her limited gag order -- she should view jailing Trump as a possible remedy for continued violations of the order.

On Wednesday in New York, a state judge fined Trump $10,000 for violating a limited gag order by publicly attacking a court staffer in Trump's civil fraud trial there.

After ABC News reported on Tuesday that Trump was allegedly told the election-related allegations coming to him and Meadows lacked any merit, Trump claimed on Truth Social that "Mark Meadows NEVER told me that allegations of significant fraud (about the RIGGED Election!) were baseless. He certainly didn't say that in his book!"

In its Tuesday report, ABC News also noted that, according to sources, Meadows had conceded to Smith's team that he doesn't believe everything that's written in the book he published nearly a year after Trump left office.

In response to ABC News' story, an attorney for Meadows told CBS News that the report was "largely inaccurate." Before publishing Tuesday's story, ABC News pressed the attorney to offer any information about what might have been inaccurate -- but he only offered "no comment."

In its 32-page filing on Wednesday, Smith's team did not confirm or deny the ABC News report.

Trump's team is expected to file a reply to Smith's filing in the next couple of days.

Trump has been indicted by the special counsel on four conspiracy and obstruction-related charges related to his alleged efforts to unlawfully retain power and "spread lies" after the 2020 presidential election. He has pleaded not guilty in the case.

Meadows has not been charged in Smith's federal case, but he has been charged -- along with Trump and 17 others -- by authorities in Georgia for allegedly trying to overturn the election results in that state. Four of those charged have already pleaded guilty and agreed to testify for the prosecution, while the others, including Meadows and Trump, have pleaded not guilty and are awaiting trial.

Special counsel accuses Trump of 'threatening' ex-chief of staff Mark Meadows following ABC News report originally appeared on abcnews.go.com