Former President Donald Trump Tuesday fired back at special counsel Jack Smith’s demand for a partial gag order in the federal Jan. 6 case, calling it an effort to curtail his First Amendment rights and damage his White House comeback bid.
Trump’s lawyers derided Smith’s request for U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan to consider issuing a “narrowly tailored order” to restrict the former president from publicly attacking potential witnesses and others as he awaits trial for trying to illegally overturn the 2020 election.
“The prosecution now asks the Court to take the extraordinary step of stripping President Trump of his First Amendment freedoms during the most important months of his campaign against President Biden,” Trump’s lawyers wrote in a filing.
“The Court should reject this transparent gamesmanship and deny the motion entirely,” they added.
Smith’s office last week accused Trump of a sweeping campaign of “disinformation” and harassment intended to intimidate witnesses, prosecutors, and others as he remains free pending a March 2024 trial.
The bulldog prosecutor, who also charged Trump in the Mar-a-Lago classified documents scandal, has until Saturday to respond.
Chutkan will either rule on the request after that or set an in-person hearing.
Prosecutors say Trump intentionally spews disinformation about the case, prosecutors and the judge in order to intimidate witnesses and poison the jury pool.
He regularly derides Smith as “deranged” and has called Chutkan a biased liberal. His lawyers have demanded that she recuse herself from the case, but legal analysts say that is a long shot.
Trump has also used his social media platform to attack his former vice president Mike Pence, a key figure in the case who will likely serve as a star witness against Trump.
The former president repeatedly sought to bully Pence into joining his alleged scheme to overturn their loss in the 2020 election and egged on his extremist supporters as they hunted down Pence inside the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
But Trump says any effort to limit his ability to talk about the case amounts to muzzling him as he seeks to rally support as a victim of an out-of-control partisan prosecution.
“The prosecution would silence President Trump, amid a political campaign where his right to criticize the government is at its zenith, all to avoid a public rebuke of this prosecution,” Trump’s lawyers wrote. “Neither it nor this Court are the filter for what the public may hear.”
Despite the arguments made by Trump’s lawyers, it’s commonplace for judges to keep criminal defendants on a short leash as they await trial to ensure they don’t intimidate witnesses or influence potential jurors.
Along with the federal case, Trump faces trial along with 18 co-defendants on Georgia state racketeering counts tied to some of the same alleged actions designed to help him stay in power after losing to Biden.
Along Mar-a-Lago case, Trump also faces New York state charges tied to hush money payments made to porn star Stormy Daniels.
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