Former President Donald Trump may soon be facing strict restrictions on what he can say about the federal criminal election conspiracy charges he is facing. A federal judge held a hearing on Monday to consider orders that would limit Trump's inflammatory comments regarding the case.
Prosecutors believe that such an order would balance Trump's right to free speech with the court's responsibility to ensure a fair trial free from outside influence. They referenced Trump's social media posts, which included attacks on U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan, Special Counsel Jack Smith, and various witnesses in the case. Trump has repeatedly referred to Smith as "deranged" and has even called him a "thug." He has also made disparaging remarks about former Vice President Mike Pence, former Attorney General William Barr, and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. In a recent post on his new social media platform, Truth Social, Trump even suggested that retired General Mark Milley be tried for treason and executed.
In advance of the hearing, Trump continued his attacks on Truth Social, accusing the "political hacks and thugs" of destroying the country. However, his legal team argues that the witnesses in the case have invited the limelight and embraced their newfound notoriety. They also claim that the prosecution has not identified any potential jurors who have been swayed by Trump's statements.
Prosecutors are seeking a limited gag order that would prevent Trump from making statements that have the potential to materially prejudice the case, specifically those that relate to the identity, testimony, or credibility of prospective witnesses, and those that are disparaging, inflammatory, or intimidating. They argue that such statements could harm the integrity of the trial and intimidate potential jurors, making it difficult for them to remain unbiased.
Terrifying, republic-destroying attack on free elections, freedom of speech as judge prohibits leading GOP contender from talking about the corruption of his government opponents, or criticizing the government that seeks to imprison him for political differences. https://t.co/2usOORlhPr
— Mollie (@MZHemingway) October 16, 2023
Earlier this month, Trump was also ordered by a New York state judge overseeing his civil fraud case to stop making personal attacks on his staff. This suggests a pattern of behavior in which Trump uses his platform to intimidate and discredit those involved in legal proceedings against him.
Trump's legal team, however, is pushing back against the gag order, citing the First Amendment and claiming that witnesses have relished the notoriety they have gained through their association with Trump.
The judge, U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan, appeared exasperated with Trump's attorney, John Lauro, at times, stating that the restrictions were not about whether she liked Trump's language, but about preserving the integrity of the trial. She also referred to a recent post in which Trump attacked a judge's staffer as evidence of the danger court staff faces from harassment.
Chutkan is expected to rule on the gag order soon, and Trump's team has indicated that they will likely appeal any restrictions put in place. The trial is currently scheduled to begin on March 4, just one day before the 2024 Super Tuesday primaries.