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Special counsel asks judge to limit Trump's "inflammatory" statements targeting individuals, institutions in 2020 election case

Jack Smith seeks gag order against Trump
Jack Smith seeks "narrow" gag order against Trump in 2020 case 03:28

Washington — Special counsel Jack Smith has asked the federal judge overseeing the case against Donald Trump for his alleged efforts to overturn the 2020 election to limit what the former president can say publicly about the case, accusing him of making "inflammatory public statements" aimed at influencing potential jurors and intimidating witnesses.

In a 24-page filing on Friday, Smith and his prosecutors list a litany of posts by Trump on his Truth Social platform since his indictment in the case in August. They say the former president "has spread disparaging and inflammatory public posts on Truth Social on a near-daily basis regarding the citizens of the District of Columbia, the Court, prosecutors, and prospective witnesses." They allege that Trump knows he "inspires others to perpetrate threats and harassment against his targets."

The government lawyers asked Judge Tanya Chutkan to impose a "narrowly tailored" order that would bar Trump from making "extrajudicial statements that present a serious and substantial danger of materially prejudicing this case."

"The defendant's repeated posts that he cannot receive a fair trial from this Court or from a jury of his peers in this District are substantially likely to undermine confidence in the justice system, affect the jury pool, or otherwise prejudice the due administration of justice," prosecutors wrote. "His misleading statements regarding the Special Counsel's Office and its investigation are designed to do the same. And his targeting of specific witnesses seeks to either bolster or impeach witnesses not before this Court but instead in the court of public opinion before trial begins."

The government proposed an order restricting statements "regarding the identity, testimony, or credibility of prospective witnesses," and also "statements about any party, witness, attorney, court personnel, or potential jurors that are disparaging and inflammatory, or intimidating."

Its filing also said that such an order would not be intended "to prohibit quotation or reference to public court records of the case or [Trump's] proclamations of innocence."

Government lawyers argued that Trump "has an established practice of issuing inflammatory public statements targeted at individuals or institutions that present an obstacle or challenge to him."

They said that after the 2020 election, he focused on the election system and on election officials and others tasked with "carrying out civic duties to implement fair elections." The government noted that those who were named by Trump in his tweets "were subject to threats and harassment." 

The filing cited a few examples of this, noting that one individual told the House select committee that investigated the Capitol riot, "After the President tweeted at me by name, calling me out the way that he did, the threats became much more specific, much more graphic, and included not just me by name but included members of my family by name, their ages, our address, pictures of our home. Just every bit of detail that you could imagine. That was what changed with that tweet."

The Trump campaign in a statement said the DOJ is "corruptly and cynically continuing to attempt to deprive President Trump of his First Amendment rights."

"This is nothing more than blatant election interference because President Trump is by far the leading candidate in this race," the Trump campaign said. "The American people— the voters— see right through this un-Constitutional charade and will send President Trump back to the White House."

The government redacted the official's name in its court filing, but that quote came from the Jan. 6 House select committee testimony of former Philadelphia City Commissioner Al Schmidt in June 2022. 

Trump responded to the special counsel's request of the court on Truth Social. 

"So, I'm campaigning for President against an incompetent person who has WEAPONIZED the DOJ & FBI to go after his Political Opponent, & I am not allowed to COMMENT," he wrote. "They Leak, Lie, & Sue, & they won't allow me to SPEAK? How else would I explain that Jack Smith is DERANGED, or Crooked Joe is INCOMPETENT?"

Trump was indicted by a federal grand jury on four charges related to his alleged attempts to reverse the 2020 election results and has pleaded not guilty. 

Kathryn Watson contributed to this report.

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