Judge in D.C. election case says Trump’s comments pose ‘serious threats’ that justify gag order


Former US President Donald Trump attends a trial in a Manhattan court in a civil fraud case in New York, United States, October 17, 2023.

Curtis Means | pool | Via Reuters

Donald Trump made statements that threatened the integrity of his case over criminal election interference, a federal judge said Tuesday as she detailed her decision to impose a partial gag order on the former president.

Judge Tanya Chutkan wrote in a filing that Trump made public statements “attacking individuals participating in the judicial process, including potential witnesses, prosecutors, and court personnel.” Deposit In the US District Court in Washington, DC

Trump’s language, which spread to audiences of millions on social media and elsewhere, made clear “not only that he believes the operation is illegal, but also that the specific individuals involved are liars, thugs, or deserve to die,” Chutkan wrote. .

The judge wrote that these statements “pose sufficiently serious threats to the integrity of these proceedings that they cannot be addressed by alternative means.”

She added that the gag order on Trump was designed to “counter the force of those threats.”

Trump has vowed to appeal Chutkan’s ruling, claiming that the gag order will hinder his ability to speak during the 2024 presidential campaign.

The three-page written opinion came one day after a judge set limits on what Trump can say about the criminal case accusing him of illegally conspiring to overturn his 2020 election loss to President Joe Biden.

Chutkan made the ruling from the bench on Monday after hearing arguments from federal prosecutor Special Counsel Jack Smith, who sought a gag order, and Trump’s lawyer, who opposed any restrictions on his speech.

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Smith’s office argued that the proposed gag order is intended to prevent Trump from damaging the case, including by tainting the jury pool. Prosecutors cited numerous posts from Trump’s Social Truth account targeting Chutkan, Smith, the citizens who make up the D.C. jury and potential witnesses in the case.

What is Trump’s argument?

Defense attorney John Lauro said a gag order would violate Trump’s First Amendment rights and hamper his ability to campaign for the Republican presidential nomination.

Chutkan expressed concern during the hearing that Smith’s proposed order was too broad. She rejected their request to bar Trump from making statements about potential jurors.

But she ultimately rejected Lauro’s argument that Trump’s political campaign prevented her from imposing restrictions on his speech.

“The defense’s position that no restrictions should be placed on the defendant’s speech because he is engaged in a political campaign is untenable, and the issues it cites do not apply as such,” Chutkan wrote in Tuesday’s opinion.

She cited two cases in which courts recognized “that First Amendment rights must be subordinated to the necessity of a fair trial.”

She wrote that the threats posed by Trump’s statements justify “limited restrictions on extrajudicial statements.”

“The bottom line is that equal justice under the law requires equal treatment of criminal defendants,” the judge wrote. “Defendant’s candidacy for the presidency cannot justify statements that would unbearably jeopardize these proceedings.”

Trump has pleaded not guilty to the charges against him, the most serious of which carries a maximum prison sentence of 20 years.

The written order prohibits all parties in the case from making public statements targeting Smith, defense attorneys, members of the court or any of their staff.

The order also prohibits parties from targeting “any reasonably foreseeable witness or the substance of their testimony.”

They are also prohibited from directing others to make any such restricted public statements on their behalf, Chutkan points out.

Chutkan’s order expressly allows Trump to continue making public criticisms of the government, including the Justice Department and the Biden administration.

Trump may also continue to maintain that he is innocent of the charges in the four-count indictment against Smith, and could still claim that the prosecution is politically biased against him, Chutkan wrote.

Chutkan noted that he could also make statements criticizing the campaign platforms and policies of his current political rivals. She pointed to former Vice President Mike Pence, who is competing with Trump for the Republican presidential nomination, as an example.

This article originally appeared on www.cnbc.com

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