After the government’s request was made public on September 15, Trump called special counsel Jack Smith “a deranged person” who “wants to take away my First Amendment rights.” His attorneys took a more measured tone in a 25-page court filing in Washington, D.C., writing that the court “should reject this transparent strategy and deny the motion entirely.”
“Given the important First Amendment issues raised by the motion, President Trump respectfully requests the Court schedule a hearing at the earliest opportunity,” the document states.
The response adds to a battle that promises to be a recurring feature of Trump’s multiple state and federal criminal cases and that highlights the challenges prosecutors and judges face in historic attempts to prosecute a former US president and active candidate.
On September 5, prosecutors in Smith’s office asked U.S. District Judge Tanya S. Chutkan to stop Trump from spreading damaging advertising before the trial. They warned that he was accused of sowing lies that sparked violence and undermined democracy after the 2020 election, and suggested that he appears to be doing it again, this time targeting the judicial system.
Trump argues that he is a victim of political persecution and claims that the Constitution should protect his political speech and candidacy.
Prosecutors urged Chutkan to stop Trump from doing three things: attack participants in the case; discuss the testimony or credibility of potential witnesses beyond what your defense says in court or in the records; and survey District residents in the potential jury pool without prior court approval for the questions to avoid risk of bias.
Prosecutors argued that just as Trump knowingly spouted lies that the 2020 election had been stolen to subvert its legitimate results and intimidate election workers and officials, the former president is now attempting to undermine confidence in the judicial system by launching nearly daily “disparaging messages and inflammatory attacks” against potential jurors, witnesses, prosecutors and the judge.
The government said that jurors serving in criminal trials January 6th2021, those accused of the attack on the Capitol in Washington, DC, already fear being publicly identified and are subject to threats and harassment fueled by Trump’s statements.
Senior Deputy Special Counsel Molly Gaston and Thomas Windom also cited the arrest of a Texas woman. accused of making death threats against Chutkan and “multiple threats” against Smith. The filing also cites “intimidating communications” involving a Justice Department supervisor, Jay Bratt, whom prosecutors say Trump has repeatedly falsely accused to notify the White House ahead of Trump’s impeachment in June on charges of mishandling classified documents in Florida.
“The defendant knows that when he publicly attacks people and institutions, he inspires others to perpetrate threats and harassment against his targets,” Gaston wrote. “The defendant continues these attacks against individuals precisely because he knows that, by doing so, he can irritate the public and rally and incite his supporters.”
But Trump’s defense rejected claims that he was intimidating D.C. citizens or creating a “substantial likelihood of material prejudice” that would prevent a fair trial by an impartial jury, as prohibited by court rules. Days after prosecutors requested “limited” restrictions on Trump, his lawyers asked Chutkan to abstain of her case, arguing that her own statements about Jan. 6 made her seem biased against him.
Trump himself has gone further, calling Chutkan “a biased judge who hates Trump” and “a fraud masquerading as a judge in Washington, DC who is a radical Obama hacker.”
Trump’s federal election obstruction case is the first in which prosecutors have sought to restrict Trump’s public statements. While these types of orders are not unusual in criminal cases, the choice of Washington, D.C. as the forum for the first request indicates that prosecutors hope to make it a testing ground for the fundamental constitutional issues at stake.
Judges often keep a close eye on what criminal defendants say before trial, to make sure they don’t intimidate witnesses or bias potential jurors. The threat of possible fines or jail time for violating a gag order keeps most defendants at bay, but treating Trump like other defendants runs head-on into the reality that he is a political candidate and has a powerful bully pulpit that has turned it into an overwhelming front. -Runner for the Republican Party presidential nomination in 2024.
Trump has pleaded not guilty in four pending criminal cases. In addition to the federal cases in D.C. and Florida, Trump is charged separately in state court in Georgia with attempting to obstruct election results in that state, and in New York with falsifying business records in connection with paying hush money to an adult film actress. during the 2016 presidential campaign.
But the question of whether Trump is best held accountable at the ballot box or to his fellow citizens on a jury is not limited to his criminal cases, as courts grapple with Trump’s struggle to divert attention from his conduct to his rights. legal and political. adversaries.
On Friday, a state judge in Denver issued a protective order limiting statements by Trump and other parties in the case in a lawsuit seeking to block him from next year’s presidential ballot on the grounds that he is ineligible for office under Article 14 of the United States Constitution. amendment.
in your orderDistrict Judge Sarah B. Wallace prohibited all parties or their attorneys from taking actions that could be construed as threatening, intimidating or harassing or that could be construed as an attempt to coerce other parties or witnesses in the case or cause them to fear for their safety. .
What is at stake in the Colorado case is a line in the 14th Amendmentratified three years after the Civil War, to block from office any public official who had “participated in an insurrection or rebellion,” with the intention of preventing traitorous former Confederates from regaining power.
Advocacy groups and individual voters in at least a dozen states have filed or explored filing lawsuits to block Trump from state ballots next year on the grounds that he participated in a rebellion with his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. Lawyers for both sides have predicted that the dispute could ultimately be resolved by the Supreme Court. Wallace, the Colorado judge, also set a trial date in the case for October 30.