A federal judge will consider whether to issue a gag order against former President Donald Trump in a hearing in Washington, DC, Monday.
Following the two federal indictments against the former president, Trump has lashed out against prosecutors, potential witnesses and the judge overseeing the election subversion case in Washington. Prosecutors with special counsel Jack Smith say these comments are enough to warrant a narrow restriction on Trump’s speech around the case.
The judge in DC, Tanya Chutkan, has previously warned Trump that comments he or his attorneys make could threaten the case.
In social media posts, Trump has attacked Chutkan as a “biased, Trump Hating Judge” and called Smith “deranged” and a “thug” as well as attacked individual members of his team.
When he first appeared in Chutkan’s courtroom in late August on charges that he unlawfully worked to overthrow the 2020 election results, the judge warned Trump against making “inflammatory” comments in the case.
“Legal trials are not like elections, to be won through the use of meeting halls, the radio and newspaper,” Chutkan said at the time, later adding: “I will take whatever measures are necessary to safeguard the integrity of these proceedings.”
Trump’s attorneys have attacked the proposed order as fundamentally antithetical to his First Amendment rights and suggested the order is simply a way for President Joe Biden and the Justice Department to hurt Trump’s ability to campaign.
“The Proposed Gag Order is nothing more than an obvious attempt by the Biden Administration to unlawfully silence its most prominent political opponent,” Trump’s attorneys wrote in a court filing.
Any restrictions on Trump’s speech, regardless of how narrow, would likely be brought up in appeals in the case along with defense attorney’s claims that the federal cases against Trump are being rushed in order to secure a conviction against him before the election.
Prosecutors say Trump’s attacks against potential witnesses – including former Vice President Mike Pence and former Attorney General Bill Barr – could result in witness intimidation by his followers.
“The defendant’s relentless public posts marshaling anger and mistrust in the justice system, the Court, and prosecutors have already influenced the public,” prosecutors wrote in a filing last month. “For instance, on August 5, 2023, an individual was arrested because she called the Court’s chambers and made racist death threats to the Court that were tied to the Court’s role in presiding over the defendant’s case.”
If Chutkan does decide to place restrictions on what the former president can say, she won’t be the first judge to do so.
In early October, the judge overseeing the ongoing New York civil trial against Trump issued a gag order against the former president after he attacked a member of the court’s staff.
“Consider this statement an order forbidding all parties from posting, emailing or speaking publicly about any members of my staff,” Judge Arthur Engoron said after Trump accused his clerk of being Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s girlfriend and calling for her to be dismissed on a social media post.
“Failure to abide by this … will result in serious sanctions,” Engoron said.