WASHINGTON — The prosecutor leading the federal election meddling case against Donald Trump has asked a judge to place him under a gag order, limiting how he is able to publicly comment on the case.
Special Counsel Jack Smith’s filing says the “narrowly tailored” order would prevent harassment of witnesses.
Trump hit back online, accusing Smith’s team of misconduct, writing: “they won’t allow me to SPEAK?” He has pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to overturn the 2020 election.
The request was unsealed by District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan and was filed a week earlier. It was among a slew of older court documents from the case that were released on Friday.
Prosecutors say their proposed order — which they never refer to as a “gag order” — is “a narrow, well defined restriction” that is necessary to prevent disinformation, threats and “prejudicing” the case.
If approved, it would ban Trump from making statements “regarding the identity, testimony, or credibility of prospective witnesses” and “statements about any party, witness, attorney, court personnel, or potential jurors that are disparaging and inflammatory, or intimidating”.
It does not place any restrictions on Trump from quoting from public record court documents or proclaiming his innocence.
Any restriction placed on the former president’s first amendment right to freedom of speech, particularly as he runs for president in 2024, would kick off a major constitutional challenge in court.
Last week, lawyers for Trump wrote to Judge Chutkan, calling her biased against Trump and asking her to step aside from the case. It is unclear when she may issue a ruling on either motion.
On Truth Social, Trump’s social media platform, he wrote on Friday: “So, I’m campaigning for President against an incompetent person who has WEAPONIZED the DOJ & FBI to go after his Political Opponent, & I am not allowed to COMMENT?
“They Leak, Lie, & Sue, & they won’t allow me to SPEAK?”
Shortly afterwards, speaking at a dinner for the group Concerned Women for America in Washington DC , he said prosecutors wanted to take away his right to speak freely and openly.
“These people are sick and they want to silence me because I will never let them silence you.
“But in the end they’re not after me, they’re after you, and I just happen to be standing in their way,” Trump told the group of around 300 socially conservative evangelical Christian women.
The filing refers to specific statements and online posts by Trump as well as people, including Judge Chutkan, who have allegedly faced intimidation after Trump criticized them.
In one comment referenced by prosecutors, Trump called her “a fraud dressed up as a judge” and “a radical Obama hack”. They argue that a woman who was arrested for calling the judge and making racist death threat came as a result of Trump’s criticisms.
The filing also cites attacks by Trump on a Georgia election worker and his former cybersecurity aide which have allegedly resulted in harassment by his supporters
On Friday it was also revealed that Twitter had secretly delivered direct messages from Trump’s account to Smith’s team.
Twitter had fought the ruling, but was ultimately forced to hand over 32 direct messages. No information about the messages was released, including whether they were sent or received by Trump, or were undelivered drafts.
Trump, the current frontrunner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, faces mounting legal troubles.
He has been criminally indicted four times, including in this federal investigation into efforts to overturn the result of the 2020 presidential election. — BBC