A federal judge on Monday barred Donald Trump from making public statements “targeting” prosecutors, court staff and personnel, and witnesses in the federal election obstruction case against him in Washington.
(Bloomberg) — A federal judge on Monday barred Donald Trump from making public statements “targeting” prosecutors, court staff and personnel, and witnesses in the federal election obstruction case against him in Washington.
In announcing the partial gag order, US District Judge Tanya Chutkan said that Trump’s free speech rights under the First Amendment had to “yield” to the administration of justice and the protection of witnesses, and did not permit him to launch a “smear campaign.”
Chutkan didn’t enter as sweeping an order as Special Counsel John “Jack” Smith’s office had wanted. She said that she would not impose more restrictions on what he could say about city of Washington and the potential jury pool, on his broader criticisms of the Biden administration and the justice department, and on his ability to claim the prosecution was politically motivated.
Trump could try to immediately appeal Chutkan’s ruling, escalating an unprecedented First Amendment fight between the Justice Department and the frontrunner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.
Read More: Judge Seeks to Do the Seemingly Impossible: Keep Trump Quiet
It’s the second gag order issued to Trump in recent weeks. A state judge in New York barred parties in the civil fraud case against the former president from posting online about court staff after Trump shared a since-deleted post disparaging a law clerk along with her photo.
Over two hours of arguments, Chutkan made clear that she was troubled by what Trump had been posting online since he was indicted and even after the government raised concerns about his speech and asked for restrictions. At one point she laughed out loud when Trump’s attorney John Lauro said he believed the existing rules were working.
“Mr. Trump is a criminal defendant, he is facing four felony charges, he is under the supervision of the criminal justice system and he must comply with the conditions of release,” Chutkan said. “He does not have the right to say and do exactly what he pleases.”
The judge repeatedly rejected Lauro’s suggestion that a simple solution would be to delay the trial from the March 4 date she’d set until after the 2024 election. Lauro argued that Trump’s free speech rights as a political candidate deserved the highest level of protection.
“This trial will not yield to the election cycle,” she said.
More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com
©2023 Bloomberg L.P.