Federal prosecutors are requesting a gag order that would prevent former president Donald Trump from making “disparaging and inflammatory, or intimidating” statements about the federal criminal case relating to his attempt to overturn the 2020 election.
The 19-page filing, made public on Friday, cites a pattern of Trump inciting harassment and death threats of election officials and workers in 2020 and throughout the various criminal cases presently unfolding against him. “The defendant knows that when he publicly attacks individuals and institutions, he inspires others to perpetrate threats and harassment against his targets,” prosecutors in Special Counsel Jack Smith’s office argued. The filing reported that some of the parties in the federal case—including Smith himself—have experienced threats following attacks from Trump on social media.
“Like his previous public disinformation campaign regarding the 2020 presidential election,” prosecutors wrote, “the defendant’s recent extrajudicial statements are intended to undermine public confidence in an institution — the judicial system — and to undermine confidence in and intimidate individuals — the court, the jury pool, witnesses and prosecutors.”
The filing to Judge Tanya Chutkan, who is overseeing the federal case, requests a “a narrow, well-defined restriction that is targeted at extrajudicial statements that present a serious and substantial danger of materially prejudicing this case.” The document refers to a number of Trump’s statements about the judge herself, including comments calling her a “a radical Obama hack” and a “biased, Trump-hating judge.”
A Trump spokesperson told The New York Times that the DOJ was “corruptly and cynically continuing to attempt to deprive President Trump of his First Amendment rights.”
Soon after the news of the gag order request broke, Trump was slated to speak at the Pray Vote Summit in Washington, hosted by the conservative group Concerned Women for America. He turned some of his speech into a rambling attack on Smith, whom he accused of “trying to take away our First Amendment Rights.” “We’re gonna have a little fun with that, I think,” Trump said, referring menacingly to the requested gag order.
Trump also took to (where else?) Truth Social, where he accused President Joe Biden of having “WEAPONIZED the DOJ & FBI to go after his Political Opponent.” “They Leak, Lie, & Sue, & they won’t allow me to SPEAK?” Trump wrote. “How else would I explain that Jack Smith is DERANGED, or Crooked Joe is INCOMPETENT?”
News of the gag order request comes after over a month of Trump flouting judicial rules. In early August, federal prosecutors asked Chutkan to impose a protective order—one step below a gag order—on Trump that would have prevented him from publicly discussing sensitive evidence in the case. The filing referred to a post Trump made on Truth Social in which he vowed that “IF YOU GO AFTER ME, I’M COMING AFTER YOU!” The following week, Chutkan told Trump lawyers that she would not tolerate any comments that would “intimidate witnesses or prejudice potential jurors” and vowed to “take whatever measures are necessary to protect the integrity of these proceedings.” Yet Trump has continued to unleash unhinged criticism of various parties in the case on a near-daily basis.
Late Thursday, Smith’s office pushed back on Trump’s longshot attempt to disqualify Chutkan from overseeing his case, declaring in a court filing that there was “no valid basis” for the judge to recuse herself.
Trump’s trial date in the case is set for next March.