A US judge has imposed a narrow gag order on former president Donald Trump, barring him from publicly attacking prosecutors, witnesses, and court staff in the run-up to a trial focused on Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election.
On Tuesday, US District Judge Tanya Chutkan in Washington, DC said that she would not tolerate a “pretrial smear campaign” by the former president targeting those involved in the case.
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“No other criminal defendant would be allowed to do so, and I’m not going to allow it in this case,” Chutkan said as she issued the order.
In recent weeks, Trump, with a long history of disparaging public officials and perceived rivals, has taken to social media to call federal prosecutor Jack Smith a “thug”. Under the rule, Trump is still allowed to assert his claim that the trial is politically motivated.
“A TERRIBLE THING HAPPENED TO DEMOCRACY TODAY – GAG ORDER!” Trump said in a post on the social media site Truth Social.
Trump is currently facing a long list of legal challenges and investigations, some of which revolve around his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election, which he lost to current President Joe Biden.
Trump lawyer John Lauro has previously pushed back against efforts to rein in Trump’s frequent attacks against those involved in the cases against him, characterising such efforts as a form of censorship.
“He is allowed to make statements the prosecution doesn’t like. That’s part of living with the First Amendment,” said Lauro, who did not comment on the ruling following the hearing.
But Smith’s team has argued that Trump’s incendiary statements — such as calling the judge “Trump-hating” and the prosecution a “group of thugs” — carry with them the risk of violence from his supporters.
“This is not about whether I like the language Mr Trump uses,” Chutkan said. “It’s about language that presents a danger to the administration of justice.”