On Monday, a federal judge prohibited former President Donald Trump from speaking about his prosecutors in the case alleging he illegally interfered when he challenged the 2020 elections.
The order came as the former president, who is campaigning to run for president again in 2024, arrived to give a speech in Iowa.
“They’ve weaponized the Justice Department,” he said in Adel, Iowa. “This is like a banana republic. But it’s going to be OK. The good news is—I’m the only one that’s ever been indicted where the [poll] numbers went through the roof—because the people understand it.” The crowd burst into cheers as President Trump said he had challenged the 2020 elections because “the election was crooked.”
“A terrible thing happened today—gag order!” he wrote on Truth Social hours later. “Will appeal the gag order ruling. Witch hunt!”
Special counsel Jack Smith, who has been investigating Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol breach-related cases since last November, is prosecuting the case against President Trump. He had filed a motion requesting the court to limit what President Trump can say about the prosecutors, potential witnesses, and about the case itself, arguing that with his wide reach online, he could influence jurors in his favor.
Judge Tanya Chutkan, presiding over the case, granted the gag order in part.
The order prohibits President Trump from posting statements attacking Mr. Smith and his staff, court personnel, and the families of any of these individuals. It also limits what he can say about potential witnesses—the judge ordered that he may make posts about these individuals, but not in relation to the underlying events in the case. The language of the full order will be filed by the judge later today.
The order does not, however, prohibit President Trump from making statements about President Joe Biden or the federal government, including the Department of Justice, and claiming that the case against him is politically motivated. Prosecutors had argued that President Trump should be prohibited from “disparaging” remarks about President Biden, who they say has nothing to do with the case, but the judge said that President Biden is neither a witness, party in the case, nor a juror.
Judge Chutkan will consider sanctions if President Trump violates the new order.
Shortly after the decision, a spokesperson for President Trump issued a statement, criticizing President Biden but not the parties mentioned in the gag order.
“Today’s decision is an absolute abomination and another partisan knife stuck in the heart of our Democracy by Crooked Joe Biden, who was granted the right to muzzle his political opponent, the leading candidate for the Presidency in 2024, and the most popular political leader in America, President Donald J. Trump. President Trump will continue to fight for our Constitution, the American people’s right to support him, and to keep our country free of the chains of weaponized and targeted law enforcement,” the statement read.
It was followed with a fundraising email blast from the campaign: “The Biden Administration can try and gag me, but they can never gag the American people!”
Supporters of President Trump’s decried the gag order as “weaponized government.”
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) attended the hearing and blasted the decision on social media and to reporters after leaving the courtroom. She said the order limits “inflammatory and disparaging” remarks, “but all of politics is inflammatory.”
“This is meant to hurt him politically, this is meant to sway public opinion; public opinion guides how people vote,” she said. “The court is weaponized in stopping freedom of speech of a former president who has not been found guilty, he’s only been charged, he’s been indicted, but yet he’s running for president. So who will be next?”
Rep. Troy Nehls wrote on X, formerly Twitter, “An Obama-appointed judge issued a gag order on President Trump. This is blatant election interference, and everyone knows it.”
Kari Lake, who is running for a Senate seat with President Trump’s endorsement, posted his campaign’s statement on the issue with a comment of her own.
“This gag order MUST be immediately appealed, & President Trump’’s 1st Amendment Rights restored,” she wrote. “In the meantime, I will NEVER stop speaking on Trump’s behalf, & highlighting this injustice.”
Stephen Miller, senior adviser to President Trump and founder of America First Legal, posted that it was “time to move on from the primary” race, and “put all of our resources into beating Biden and his weaponized government in the general [election].”
Clark Neily, senior vice president for legal studies at the Cato Institute, thought it was unlikely the gag order would be reversed on appeal.
“Donald Trump is to some extent a unique criminal defendant,” he said, noting that President Trump will use the process to his advantage “however he can.” Mr. Neily said this means judges may be “less inclined to give Trump the benefit of the doubt than they might to other defendants.”
Roger Severino, Vice President of Domestic Policy at The Heritage Foundation and former head of the Trump administration’s Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Civil Rights, said it was overreach on the part of the judge.
“[Judge Chutkan] is doing the work of his political enemies for him,” Mr. Severino said. “It’s unprecedented for a federal court to limit the speech of a former president,” he said, much less one who was running for office.
Mr. Severino said the “one-way” order comes in the middle of a political campaign, meaning potential witnesses like former General Mark Milley and former Attorney General Bill Barr can go on network television making disparaging statements about “and do political damage to” President Trump, but potentially would not be able to defend himself.
“The president’s entire premise of his defense, both in court, and in the court of public opinion, is that this is a politically fabricated prosecution and he wants to win the presidency again in part to prevent this from happening to any other American,” he said. “Now he has looking over his shoulder because the judge is going to be watching every word that he says on that issue … it’s this preemptive chilling of speech.”
From The Epoch Times