Washington – The legal teams of Special Counsel Jack Smith and former President Donald Trump will face off Monday in a high-stakes appeals court hearing on a federal judge’s ruling restricting some aspects of Trump’s speech in connection with this case, in view of his criminal trial. trial in Washington, DC
Trump has asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to vacate or suspend U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan’s October limited gag order — which is not currently in effect — that would prevent him from publicly targeting public individuals ministries, judicial personnel or potential witnesses related to the case. Federal prosecutors tied to the 2020 elections. The special prosecutor had urged Chutkan to impose even broader restrictions on the former president’s pre-trial speech, arguing that his public comments threatened the proper administration of the judicial process and could inspire violence from supporters.
His order went no further than prosecutors requested, but Chutkan said he was treating the former president like any other defendant, preventing him from speaking publicly against those who might testify against him at trial.
Trump’s public targeting of the prosecution — he called Smith “deranged” and heeded reports that former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows cooperated with the investigation — and prosecutors’ efforts to limit it they have injected partisan politics into what are sometimes banal pre-trial clashes over the defendant’s liberties.
“The question is not whether I like the language Trump uses,” Chutkan said at an October hearing. “This is language that poses a danger to the administration of justice.” He said part of his role is to protect the integrity of the judicial process and that protections of free speech “give way” when those principles are threatened.
The appeals court temporarily suspended the gag order ahead of Monday’s hearing at Trump’s request, so it is not currently in effect.
Chutkan’s order, Trump’s lawyers argued in court filings, was “muzzling President Trump’s central political discourse during a historic presidential campaign” and was “viewpoint-based.”
The prosecutors and potential witnesses Trump was barred from publicly targeting are high-level government officials, they said, and are therefore connected to Trump’s political campaign. Any restrictions on Trump’s speech, his defense lawyers argue, limit his right to campaign freely.
“The district court cannot silence President Trump based solely on the anticipated reaction of his audience. The district court does not have the authority to silence the key political speech of the leading presidential candidate at the height of his reelection campaign” , Trump’s lawyers argued. in judicial documents. “President Trump has the right to proclaim, and the American public has the right to hear, his core political messages. The Gag Order should be immediately rescinded.”
But Smith’s team has increasingly worked to link Trump’s public rhetoric to threats of violence, arguing that his supporters’ reactions to his criticisms could influence how the trial, currently set for March 2024, proceeds.
Trump, the special prosecutor claims, is aware that his language could inspire others to act and “seeks to use this well-known dynamic to his advantage.” Citing threats to Judge Chutkan herself, prosecutors write that the scheme “continued unabated as this case and other unrelated cases involving the defendant progressed.”
Refuting Trump’s claims of First Amendment protection, prosecutors told the appeals court earlier this month: “The defendant need not explicitly incite threats or violence in his public statements, because he knows full well that By publicly targeting perceived adversaries with inflammatory language, he can maintain a veneer of plausible deniability while ensuring desired outcomes.”
Smith’s team has argued that the former president’s current campaign to regain office is not sufficient reason to grant him broad pretrial privileges.
In a statement Friday, Trump’s team countered, “The First Amendment does not permit the district court to micromanage President Trump’s central political speech” and said Smith’s argument for the order was based on ” hearsay, media reports as a substitute for evidence.”
Trump’s motion to lift the gag order received support last week from more than a dozen Republican state attorneys general who echoed his argument that restrictions on his speech unduly target voters in primary states .
Led by Iowa’s attorney general, the group — at least six of whom supported Trump — wrote in an amicus brief: “Our citizens have an interest in hearing from the major political candidates in that election. The order threatens the interests of the states violating President Trump’s right to free speech.”
Trump has also found an unlikely ally in the American Civil Liberties Union, which brought dozens of legal challenges to Trump’s policies while he was in office. In the brief from the friend of the court the ACLU sought to go to district court – its request to file the brief was ultimately denied – the organization argued that Chutkan’s order is unconstitutionally vague and impermissibly broad.
The commission reviewing Trump’s request includes judges Patricia Millett and Cornelia Pillard – both appointed by Obama – and Bradley Garcia, appointed by Biden.
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