Special counsel seeks gag order on Trump for inflammatory statements

Jack Smith tells federal court former president's repeated attacks on Justice Department officials, the Washington public and the judge in the case could prejudice the jury pool

Jack Smith's team said the attacks had resulted in real threats from Trump supporters against prosecutors, the court and potential jurors. AP
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Special counsel Jack Smith asked a judge on Friday to place a gag order on former US president Donald Trump, saying his inflammatory rhetoric threatens to undermine his coming trial for election subversion.

Mr Smith told the federal court that Mr Trump's repeated attacks on Justice Department officials, the Washington public and the judge in the case herself, Tanya Chutkan, could prejudice the jury pool, which is drawn from the local population.

He also said the attacks had resulted in real threats from Trump supporters against prosecutors, the court and potential jurors.

Mr Trump's statements “could have a material impact on the impartiality of the jury pool while simultaneously influencing witness testimony”, the filing said.

Anyone reading or hearing Mr Trump's comments “may reasonably fear that they could be the next targets of the defendant's attacks”, it said.

The special counsel asked the judge to forbid Mr Trump from making disparaging, inflammatory or intimidating statements about anyone involved with or potentially involved with the case, and any statements at all on prospective witnesses.

The request cited a number of Mr Trump's comments after the August 1 indictment, including a menacing social media post that read: “IF YOU GO AFTER ME, I'M COMING AFTER YOU!”

Mr Trump labelled Ms Chutkan a “fraud” and “Trump-hating”, Mr Smith's office a “team of thugs”, and Washington “filthy and crime-ridden” with a population “over 95% anti-Trump”.

The filing also cited his attacks on potential witnesses against him, including former vice president Mike Pence.

It said Mr Trump's language has resulted in real threats made against the court and the prosecutors.

“It is clear that the threats are prompted by the defendant's repeated and relentless posts,” it said.

Mr Trump was indicted over his alleged efforts to upend the results of the 2020 US election in a concerted effort that led to the violent January 6, 2021, attack by his supporters on the Capitol.

He is also accused of seeking to disenfranchise American voters with his false claims that he won the November 2020 presidential election.

Mr Trump has pleaded not guilty, and has formally asked Ms Chutkan to recuse herself from the case, accusing her of bias against him.

Ms Chutkan set March 4, 2024, for the start of the trial, which could interfere with Mr Trump's campaign to win the Republican nomination in next year's presidential election.

Updated: September 15, 2023, 10:57 PM