US Judge Weighs Whether to Impose Gag Order on Trump
A U.S. federal judge in Washington is weighing whether to impose a gag order on former President Donald Trump to restrict what he can say about his impending trial accusing him of illegally trying to overturn his 2020 reelection loss, even as he campaigns to reclaim the White House in the 2024 election.
During Monday’s hearing, Justice Department special counsel Jack Smith asked U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan for the order curbing Trump’s comments after he repeatedly attacked both of them and disparaged potential witnesses against him in the case that is set for trial in March during his third run for the presidency.
Smith last month asked for the gag order to limit Trump’s statements outside of court filings made by his lawyers that amount to what the prosecutor said contained “prejudicial” statements. Smith warned about possible danger to public officials and the intimidation of witnesses.
But Trump’s lawyers have scoffed at Smith’s request for the gag order, saying it is an attempt to curb his First Amendment right of free speech and should be rejected outright. They said it would limit Trump’s quest for the Republican presidential nomination to run in the second straight national election against Joe Biden, the Democrat who defeated him in 2020.
Trump is trying to raise campaign funds off the dispute, telling would-be donors earlier this month, that Biden’s “weaponized” Justice Department “may very well get away with stripping Biden’s leading opponent (ME) of his First Amendment right to freedom of speech in the 2024 presidential election.”
At various times, Trump has called Smith “deranged” and a “psycho” who “looks like a crackhead.” The prosecutor has brought two cases against Trump, the election conspiracy case in Washington and a separate indictment accusing him of illegally taking highly classified national security documents with him to his oceanside Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida when he left the presidency in 2021 and then conspiring to keep federal agents from retrieving them.
In another social media post, Trump called Chutkan, “a fraud dressed up as a judge” and “a biased, Trump-hating judge.” His lawyers asked Chutkan to recuse herself from overseeing the trial, but she rejected the request.
“IF YOU GO AFTER ME, I’M COMING AFTER YOU!” Trump said in one social media post.
After one of his public complaints about the election conspiracy case, a Texas woman was charged with calling the office of Chutkan, who is Black, addressing her using a racist term and “threatened to kill anyone who went after former President Trump.” The woman was arrested and is awaiting trial at the end of October.
Aside from the two indictments brought by Smith against Trump, the former president is facing two other criminal cases, one accusing him of trying to illegally upend his 2020 loss to Biden in the southern state of Georgia and another of falsifying business records at his real estate conglomerate to hide a hush money payment to a porn film star ahead of his successful 2016 presidential campaign.