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Federal Prosecutors Push For Gag Order Against Trump After His Recent Remarks

Published: October 1, 2023 | Print Friendly and PDF
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Federal prosecutors have urged the federal judge to impose a gag order on former President Donald Trump in the 2020 election interference case, citing the "prejudicial extrajudicial statements" he made on social media.

The special counsel team filed the request for a gag order against Mr. Trump on Sept. 15 to restrict him from making "intimidating" comments about witnesses, lawyers, and other people involved in the criminal case.

Prosecutors said on Sept. 25 that Mr. Trump continued to wage "a sustained campaign of prejudicial public statements regarding witnesses, the court, the district, and prosecutors" even after the proposed order.

"The defendant should not be permitted to obtain the benefits of his incendiary public statements and then avoid accountability by having others—whose messages he knows will receive markedly less attention than his own—feign retraction," they said in a court filing (pdf).

"No other criminal defendant would be permitted to issue public statements insinuating that a known witness in his case should be executed; this defendant should not be, either," it added.

They referred to recent posts on his social media platform, Truth Social, including one on Sept. 22 in which Mr. Trump accused departing Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley of committing treason.

In the post, Mr. Trump said that Mr. Milley’s alleged "treasonous act" could have led to "a war between China and the United States." He also suggested that Mr. Milley should be executed for his alleged conduct.

Prosecutors also mentioned a video posted by Mr. Trump’s spokesman claiming that Mr. Trump had bought a Glock gun in South Carolina. The post was later removed, and the spokesman retracted his remarks, saying that Mr. Trump had only indicated his interest in buying the gun.

Despite the spokesman’s retraction, prosecutors said that Mr. Trump "re-posted a video of the incident" posted by one of his followers with a caption that suggested he had indeed bought the weapon.

"The defendant either purchased a gun in violation of the law and his conditions of release, or seeks to benefit from his supporters’ mistaken belief that he did so," the prosecutors stated.

Mr. Trump’s lawyers have objected to the request, and U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan on Friday set courtroom arguments for Oct. 16.

Prosecutors Try to Silence Trump With Gag Order

Mr. Trump’s lawyers have previously denounced the gag order request as an attempt to "unconstitutionally silence" his political speech. They called the request a "desperate attempt at censorship."

"The prosecution would silence President Trump, amid a political campaign where his right to criticize the government is at its zenith, all to avoid a public rebuke of this prosecution," his lawyers wrote (pdf) on Sept. 25.

"However, above all else, the First Amendment means that government has no power to restrict expression because of its message, its ideas, its subject matter, or its content.

“The prosecution may not like President’s Trump’s entirely valid criticisms, but neither it nor this Court are the filter for what the public may hear,” they added.

Mr. Trump’s lawyers argued that the proposed gag order was “sweepingly broad” and that “many of its terms are undefined.”

If the order is granted, Mr. Trump would be forced to dramatically limit the type of comments he makes about the case even as he seeks to turn his criminal woes — the Washington prosecution is one of four that he currently faces — to his political advantage while running to reclaim the White House in 2024.

His attorneys filed court papers on Sept. 27 saying that more time is required to deal with procedures for reviewing classified information in the federal case in which the former president is accused of trying to overturn the 2020 election.

Jack Phillips and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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