The US special counsel prosecuting Donald Trump for election subversion has asked a judge to impose “limited restrictions” on the former president’s public statements, citing his frequent “inflammatory attacks” on the court, prospective witnesses and citizens of Washington DC.
In a filing on Friday, federal prosecutors requested that judge Tanya Chutkan issue a “narrow” gag order that would prohibit Trump from making statements “regarding the identity, testimony, or credibility of prospective witnesses” and “about any party, witness, attorney, court personnel, or potential jurors that are disparaging and inflammatory, or intimidating”.
The request noted his “near-daily” disparaging posts on social media site Truth Social, including his post after his arraignment that said, “IF YOU GO AFTER ME, I’M COMING AFTER YOU”; claims that the justice system is “rigged” against him; attacks on DC as a “filthy and crime ridden” district where he says he will not get a fair trial and direct attacks on Chutkan, including calling her “a fraud dressed up as a judge” and “radical Obama hack”.
The filing from Jack Smith, the special counsel, who has himself been disparaged by Trump as “deranged” and someone with “unchecked and insane aggression”, said that prosecutors were seeking a “well-defined restriction that is targeted at extrajudicial statements that present a serious and substantial danger of materially prejudicing this case”.
Prosecutors noted that his attacks on social media have previously endangered the subjects of his vitriol, sometimes leading to violence: “The defendant knows that when he publicly attacks individuals and institutions, he inspires others to perpetrate threats and harassment against his targets.”
Chutkan has previously warned Trump’s legal team about his statements. Last month, she told his lawyer: “I caution you and your client to take special care in your public statements about this case. I will take whatever measures are necessary to safeguard the integrity of these proceedings.”
The gag order request came the same day that unsealed filings revealed that Twitter, now known as X, gave prosecutors at least 32 of Trump’s private messages.
Repeated violations of gag orders in criminal matters can lead to jail time for defendants. The judge has set a March 2024 date for the trial on charges of conspiracy to defraud the US, conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, obstruction of and attempt to obstruct an official proceeding, and conspiracy against rights.
In his separate criminal case in Georgia, Trump was released on the condition that he not intimidate co-defendants, witnesses and others.