A federal judge has issued a ruling preventing Donald Trump from making critical comments about prosecutors, the court, and potential witnesses in his upcoming trial on charges related to election subversion.
This decision comes in response to recent statements by the former president where he labeled prosecutors as “a team of thugs” and derided one witness as “a gutless pig.”
Judge Tanya Chutkan argued that imposing a limited gag order on Mr. Trump was necessary to avert a “pre-trial smear campaign.” In response, a spokesperson for Trump criticized the ruling, characterizing it as “another partisan attack.”
Donald Trump, currently the leading Republican candidate for the 2024 presidential election, faces charges stemming from his alleged attempts to overturn the 2020 election results, which he lost to Democrat Joe Biden.
The indictment includes four counts: conspiracy to defraud the U.S., conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, obstruction of an official proceeding, and conspiracy against the rights of citizens.
Special Counsel Jack Smith, overseeing the investigation, had requested a gag order, asserting that Trump’s comments could prejudice various parties involved, including prosecutors, jurors, and court staff. Smith’s office also contended that attacking potential witnesses would have a “chilling” effect on the case.
The court faced the delicate task of balancing the need to safeguard the legal proceedings with the free speech rights of a political candidate. Judge Chutkan underscored that, as a criminal defendant, Mr. Trump “does not have the right to say and do exactly what he pleases.”
She cited Trump’s disparaging remarks about Mr. Smith and herself, characterizing her as “a biased Trump-hating judge” and a “radical Obama hack.”
She expressed deep concern about his tendency to target others, including the special counsel’s wife and a court staffer in his New York civil fraud case.
In a separate case, Mr. Trump is subject to a partial gag order due to his criticism of a New York judge’s top clerk, where he included her name, photograph, and social media in a post.
Judge Chutkan emphasized that her ruling aimed to prevent language that posed a danger to the administration of justice.
While Mr. Trump’s attorney, John Lauro, defended his “colorful language” as part of the “rough and tumble” of politics, Judge Chutkan challenged that a presidential candidate should be allowed to make threats.
The partial order, as issued by the judge, does not prohibit Mr. Trump from criticizing President Biden, the Justice Department, or Washington, where the case is being tried.
However, it does prevent comments about the special counsel, his team, court staff, and potential witnesses, except for Mike Pence, Trump’s former vice president and rival in the 2024 election.
Judge Chutkan did not specify how she would enforce the partial order but pledged to consider sanctions if the restrictions were violated. She rejected the proposal to delay the trial until after the 2024 election cycle.
In response to the ruling, a spokesperson for Donald Trump characterized it as “an absolute abomination and another partisan tactic by Crooked Joe Biden to silence his political opponent.”
The trial is set to commence on March 4, coinciding with Super Tuesday, a crucial day of voting in the Republican presidential primary. As Trump resumes his White House campaign, he also faces three other criminal trials next year and a total of 91 felony charges.