Trump lawyers slam gag order request, calling it attempt to ‘unconstitutionally silence’ campaign

‘The Court should reject this transparent gamesmanship and deny the motion entirely,’ ex-president’s attorneys write in 25-page filing

Gustaf Kilander
Washington, DC
Tuesday 26 September 2023 17:04 BST
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Louise Thomas

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Former President Donald Trump’s legal team is arguing that the office of Special Counsel Jack Smith is attempting to “unconstitutionally silence” his political speech with their request for a narrow gag order in the Washington DC federal election subversion case.

Lawyers for Mr Trump argued in a late Monday filing that Judge Tanya Chutkan should reject the suggestion that the former president be barred from making inciting and threatening statements about witnesses, lawyers, and others connected to the case.

The Trump attorneys have called the ploy a “desperate effort at censorship” which would make Mr Trump unable to share his version of events as he runs for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.

“The prosecution may not like President Trump’s entirely valid criticisms, but neither it nor this Court are the filter for what the public may hear,” the lawyers said. “If the prosecution wishes to avoid criticism for abusing its power, the solution is simple: stop abusing its power. The Constitution allows no alternative.”

When arguing for the gag order earlier this month, the office of the special counsel noted that Mr Trump has a habit of making “false and inflammatory” statements regarding the case in addition to outbursts intended to threaten those he believes may serve as witnesses for the prosecution.

The prosecutors argued that a narrow and well-defined gag order was required to maintain the integrity of the case as well as to not risk prejudicing possible jurors.

Mr Trump’s legal team argued that the office of the special counsel hasn’t shown that a gag order would be needed, claiming that the former president’s use of social media hasn’t intimidated any witnesses and they disregarded the notion that his remarks would taint the jury pool.

The former president’s legal team has also asked that Judge Chutkan recuse herself from the case because of comments she made when sentencing January 6 rioters. They argued that her comments regarding Mr Trump and his links to the insurrection made them doubt that she would be able to be fair.

The office of the special counsel claimed in response that there was no valid basis for the judge to leave the case.

“On August 1, 2023, the prosecution publicly released a forty-five-page speaking Indictment that read very much like a campaign press release,” the Trump legal team wrote in its 25-page filing on Monday night. “As if the Indictment’s media talking points were not enough, prosecutor Jack Smith then held a press conference to deliver an incendiary attack upon President Trump, falsely claiming that he ‘fueled . . . an unprecedented assault on the seat of American democracy.’”

“This inflammatory rhetoric, which violated long-standing rules of prosecutorial ethics, was then repeated daily by media publications across the country,” they argued. “Following these efforts to poison President Trump’s defense, the prosecution now asks the Court to take the extraordinary step of stripping President Trump of his First Amendment freedoms during the most important months of his campaign against President Biden. The Court should reject this transparent gamesmanship and deny the motion entirely.”

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