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'They won't allow me to speak', Donald Trump responds to federal prosecutor Jack Smith' gag order apeals in US court

Sep 16, 2023 07:36 AM IST

Federal prosecutor Jack Smith requests gag order on Trump in election overturn case. Trump claims misconduct, denies wrongdoing. Constitutional challenge likely

The federal prosecutor who is in charge of the case against Donald Trump for trying to overturn the 2020 election has requested a judge to impose a gag order on the former president, restricting his ability to comment publicly on the case.

Former President Donald Trump waves to the crowd after speaking at a Concerned Women for America Summit at the Capitol Hilton, Friday, Sept. 15, 2023, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)(AP)
Former President Donald Trump waves to the crowd after speaking at a Concerned Women for America Summit at the Capitol Hilton, Friday, Sept. 15, 2023, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)(AP)

Special Counsel Jack Smith’s motion says the order is needed to prevent witness harassment and protect the fairness of the trial.

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FILE - Special counsel Jack Smith speaks about an indictment of former President Donald Trump, Aug. 1, 2023, at a Department of Justice office in Washington.(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)(AP)
FILE - Special counsel Jack Smith speaks about an indictment of former President Donald Trump, Aug. 1, 2023, at a Department of Justice office in Washington.(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)(AP)

Trump responded on his social media platform, Truth Social, accusing Smith’s team of misconduct and writing, “they won’t allow me to SPEAK?”

He has denied any wrongdoing and pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to overturn the 2020 election.

The motion was made public by District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan on Friday, a week after it was filed. It was among several older court documents from the case that were released on Friday.

Prosecutors say their proposed order is “a narrow, well defined restriction” that aims to prevent disinformation, threats and “prejudicing” the case.

The order would prohibit 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”.

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The order would not prevent Trump from quoting from public record court documents or declaring his innocence.

Any limitation on the former president’s First Amendment right to free speech, especially as he runs for president in 2024, would likely trigger a major constitutional challenge in court.

Last week, the former president’s lawyers wrote to Judge Chutkan, asking her to recuse herself from the case, claiming she was biased against Mr Trump.

It is not clear when she will rule on either motion.

On Friday, Trump wrote on Truth Social, "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?”

The motion cites specific examples of 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 cited by prosecutors, the 45th U.S. president called her “a fraud dressed up as a judge” and “a radical Obama hack”. They argue that a woman who was arrested for making racist death threats to the judge was influenced by Mr Trump’s criticisms.

The motion also refers to attacks by Trump on a Georgia election worker and his former cybersecurity aide that have allegedly resulted in harassment by his supporters.

On Friday, it was also revealed that Twitter had secretly handed over direct messages from Trump’s account to Smith’s team.

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Twitter had resisted the order, but was eventually forced to give up 32 direct messages. No details about the messages were disclosed, including whether they were sent or received by Trump, or were drafts that were never sent.

Trump, who is leading the polls for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, faces multiple legal challenges.

He has been criminally charged four times, including in this federal investigation into his efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election result.

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