Special counsel seeks ‘restricted’ gag order for Trump in election interference case

By | September 16, 2023

WASHINGTON — Citing threats against individuals targeted by former President Donald Trump, Special Counsel Jack Smith has asked a federal judge for a tailor-made gag order barring the 2024 presidential candidate from making certain out-of-court statements in the election interference case brought against him.

A redacted copy of a government document — released Friday, after an order from U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan — is linked to the election interference case, one of four criminal cases the former president is facing, two of them federal.

“Defendant has an established practice of making inflammatory public statements aimed at individuals or institutions that pose an obstacle or challenge to him,” the special prosecutor’s office wrote.

The government said Trump “made clear his intent to launch public attacks related to this case when, the day after his complaint, he posted a threatening message on Truth Social.”

Trump’s Aug. 4 post read: “IF YOU CHASE ME, I’LL COME AFTER YOU!”

Trump, the office wrote, “has made good on his threat,” making “almost daily disparaging and inflammatory public posts on Truth Social regarding the citizens of the District of Columbia, the Court, prosecutors, and potential witnesses.

“Like his previous public disinformation campaign regarding the 2020 presidential election, the defendant’s recent extrajudicial statements are intended to undermine public confidence in an institution – the justice system – and to undermine confidence and intimidate individuals – the Court, the jury, the witnesses, and prosecutors,” the prosecutors wrote.

At an event in Washington, Trump made his first public remarks on the motion attacking Smith, claiming that the special prosecutor “wants to take away my First Amendment rights, wants to take away my right to speak freely and openly.”

Steven Cheung, a Trump campaign spokesman, responded late Friday by calling the document “nothing more than blatant election interference because President Trump is by far the leading candidate in this race.”

Former President Donald Trump disembarks from his plane in Newark, NJ, on June 13, 2023. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images file)

Former President Donald Trump disembarks from his plane in Newark, NJ, on June 13, 2023. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images file)

Trump’s team asked Chutkan to recuse himself, citing his comments on the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, a motion the government opposed.

Chutkan – who herself received threats and had an increased security presence after she was assigned the case – has set Trump’s trial for March 2024.

Smith’s office said Trump’s rhetoric against the court and prosecutors echoed the months-long campaign following his defeat in the 2020 election that led to the attack on the U.S. Capitol.

“As set forth in the indictment, after Election Day 2020, the defendant launched a disinformation campaign in which he publicly and widely knowingly disseminated false claims that there had been fraud instrumental in the outcome of the presidential election and that he had actually won,” federal prosecutors wrote in the motion released Friday. “In furtherance of his criminal conspiracies, through false public statements, the defendant sought to undermine public confidence in the administration of the election and to intimidate the people who debunked his lies.”

“The defendant is now attempting to do the same thing in this criminal case,” they continued, “to undermine confidence in the criminal justice system and prejudice the jury pool through disparaging and incendiary attacks against the citizens of this district, the Court, prosecutors and potential witnesses.

CORRECTION (September 15, 2023, 5:57 pm ET): An earlier version of this story misspelled the first and last by the judge overseeing the case. Her name is Tanya Chutkan, not Tonya Chuktan.

This article was originally published on NBCNews.com

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