Federal District Judge Tanya S. Chutkan has issued a gag order against Donald J. Trump in the Washington, DC, case where the former president faces charges related to the 2020 election. The Biden Justice Department brought in Jack Smith as special counsel to investigate several criminal allegations against Trump, including those surrounding his actions on January 6, 2021. Now prosecuting the case in which Trump has been charged with offenses including obstructing an official proceeding and conspiracy to defraud the United States, Smith won a partial gag order against the man running for president against his boss. While Trump is in the midst of fighting an election campaign as well as the criminal charges, he can now be cited or even jailed for saying things that violate the judge’s order.
The former president did not attend the federal court hearing where Smith asked Judge Chutkan, an Obama appointee, to muzzle him with a gag order. Smith’s motion to the court asserted Trump “knows that when he publicly attacks individuals and institutions, he inspires others to perpetrate threats and harassment against his targets.”
Tweetstorm From Trump Trial
Reports from inside the E. Barrett Prettyman Courthouse reveal that Chutkan issued a ruling from the bench granting in part and denying, in part, Smith’s motion. Roger Parloff of Lawfare reported via 77 tweets from the proceedings, revealing the judge’s order. He wrote that Chutkan claimed Trump had sought to represent every statement he uttered “as part and parcel of his argument” that Biden is violating the First Amendment by prosecuting a political opponent for his speech. Judge Chutkan, however, said, “There is a right to restrict language that threatens the administration of justice.”
Parloff relayed that Chutkan would enter a written order after the hearing, but none was posted by our publication deadline. He reported the order doesn’t limit Trump’s statements about the Biden administration or the Department of Justice. However, it prohibits all parties from publicly making or reposting statements targeting Special Counsel Smith, his staff, Chutkan’s staff, and court personnel. Statements targeting the family of these people are also prohibited.
Trump can no longer legally call prosecutors “deranged” or “thugs,” like any other American has a right to. The judge said she would bar “statements about witnesses or substance of expected testimony,” as well. She states there was an actual risk that witnesses may be intimidated and others may be reluctant to come forward.
Trump on Trial
Later in the day, after the hearing concluded, Trump told a crowd of supporters at a campaign event in Iowa, “Today, a judge put on a gag order. I’ll be the only politician in history that runs with a gag order where I’m not allowed to criticize people. Can you imagine this?”
On his TruthSocial media platform, he was a little more blunt, writing:
WILL APPEAL THE GAG ORDER RULING. WITCH HUNT!
Former federal prosecutor and MSNBC legal eagle Glenn Kirschner was also in the courtroom. He said Trump’s attorney, John Lauro, pressed Judge Chutkan on moving the trial date past the November 2024 presidential election. That’s when she “Got most animated, and she said, and I quote, ‘This trial will not yield to an election cycle, and we will not revisit the trial date.’” Chutkan had scheduled the start in less than five months, on March 4, 2024.