Trump urges judge to reject proposed gag order in federal election case

Prosecutors have asked Judge Tanya Chutkan to order Trump to stop attacking potential witnesses.

Donald Trump’s lawyers said Monday that a gag order proposed by prosecutors would unconstitutionally silence him during key months of the 2024 presidential campaign, urging a federal judge in Washington, D.C. to reject the proposed limits.

In a 25-page filing that mirrored some of Trump’s own heated political rhetoric, Trump’s attorneys said the former president’s attacks on potential witnesses, special counsel Jack Smith and even U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan herself are protected by the First Amendment and were not actual threats or incitement of attacks.

“The prosecution may not like President Trump’s entirely valid criticisms,” attorneys Gregory Singer, John Lauro and Todd Blanche wrote in the late-night filing, ”but neither it nor this court are the filter for what the public may hear.”

Smith’s team sought the gag order earlier this month, citing Trump’s recent inflammatory attacks on potential witnesses in his upcoming trial on charges related to his bid to subvert the 2020 election. They also cited his attacks on prosecutors and Chutkan, as well as on figures like Mike Pence, who is expected to be a key witness in the case.

Prosecutors want Chutkan to order Trump to refrain from further attacks or risk punishment. They are expected to reply to Trump’s filing later this week.

Trump has spent the days since prosecutors’ gag order proposal went public assailing Smith for making the request. And over the weekend he unleashed a lengthy attack on Mark Milley, the outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who is also a potential witness in both of Trump’s pending federal criminal trials.

Prosecutors have previously cited Trump’s attacks on Pence, as well as more generalized, ominous comments, as evidence of the need for a gag order. They also noted that historically, Trump’s attacks have caused threats and harassment toward potential witnesses against him.

Trump’s attorneys said there’s no evidence that any of Trump’s public comments about those witnesses have deterred them from cooperating with prosecutors or preparing to testify in the case.

“This is entirely unsurprising as President Trump has never called for any improper or unlawful action,” they wrote.

Trump’s lawyers also rejected the notion that his comments would influence potential jurors in Washington, D.C. Rather, they portrayed Trump’s comments as a necessary antidote to media coverage of the indictment itself and Smith’s comments connecting Trump’s actions to the violence that unfolded on Jan. 6, 2021, at the Capitol.

Trump’s lawyers cited D.C.’s heavily Democratic voting patterns to suggest Trump’s words are unlikely to sway jurors against the prosecution’s case.

The attorneys also argued that the proposed gag order, despite prosecutors’ claims that it was meant to be a “narrow” limit, includes sweeping language that would cover a wide range of statements Trump or his surrogates might make.