Judge asked to impose narrow gag order on Trump in Jan. 6 case

Special counsel Jack Smith on Friday asked a judge to limit the extent former President Trump can discuss his looming trial on charges related to his effort to block the transfer of power in the 2020 election, citing a history of targeting those who “present an obstacle” to him.

The order asks federal district court Judge Tanya Chutkan to restrict “certain prejudicial extrajudicial statements” from Trump about the 2020 election case, seeking a “narrow, well-defined restriction” limiting discussion about the testimony or credibility of witnesses in the case, as well as court personnel and jurors.

The government said the gag order was needed because Trump “has an established practice of issuing inflammatory public statements targeted at individuals or institutions that present an obstacle or challenge to him.”

“The defendant knows that when he publicly attacks individuals and institutions, he inspires others to perpetrate threats and harassment against his targets,” prosecutors wrote in the filing.

They say the order would not stop Trump from referencing court documents or proclaiming innocence.

The filing notes Trump’s attorneys oppose the motion.

Prosecutors cited seven examples of people whose addresses were shared or needed security after being referenced by Trump, including after he lashed out at a former Philadelphia city commissioner who described the experience to the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack. Al Schmidt said after being name-checked by Trump in a tweet, the subsequent threats became more graphic and “included members of my family by name, their ages, our address, and pictures of our home.”

Prosecutors again pointed to a social media post from Trump last month in which he said, “If you come after me, I’m coming after you.”

“Since the indictment in this case, the defendant 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,” prosecutors wrote.

“Like his previous public disinformation campaign regarding the 2020 presidential election, 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 then reviews the attacks Trump has launched against Chutkan and the prosecutors working on the case, with the filing becoming public just days after Trump’s attorneys in the case filed a motion to push Chutkan to recuse herself from the case.

Chutkan was spotted at her D.C. courthouse Friday accompanied by several U.S. Marshals, a sign she remains under protection in the building even on days matters concerning Trump are not being addressed.

The filing noted that both Chutkan and Smith have faced multiple threats since the indictment.

“Given the defendant’s history described above and the nature of the threats to the Court and to the Government, it is clear that the threats are prompted by the defendant’s repeated and relentless posts. To the extent that the defendant’s public posts reach the general public, they also reach the jury pool for this trial,” the government wrote.

Prosecutors also called out Trump attorneys’ complaints about Jay Bratt, a top prosecutor on the Mar-a-Lago case, saying the former president has accused him of improperly visiting the White House in connection with his case, when in reality,  he was there to conduct “a routine investigative interview of a career military official at that official’s duty station.”

Prosecutors said Trump would have been notified of the meeting in a June batch of discovery in the case.

“The defendant’s objective in spreading a knowing lie to the contrary — including by re-posting others’ Truth Social posts naming the prosecutor and repeating the lie — is an attempt to prejudice the public and the venire in advance of trial,” prosecutors wrote.

Trump’s campaign team complained about the motion.

“Crooked Joe Biden’s weaponized DOJ are corruptly and cynically continuing to attempt to deprive President Trump of his First Amendment rights,” the campaign said in a statement. 

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

The unsealing of the motion came after a challenge by Trump to respond to the government’s filing of the sealed motion.

In a subsequent filing over the issue, prosecutors alluded to Trump’s repeated commentary on social media in the case, complaining about “the defendant’s daily extrajudicial statements that threaten to prejudice the jury pool in this case.”  

While Chutkan sided with Trump’s attorneys in giving them a chance to respond, she ultimately sided with prosecutors, in allowing the filing of both a sealed and redacted motion on the topic.

She cited the potential for intimidation of the witnesses referenced in the redacted filing.

“The individuals behind those redactions have already experienced harassment and threats due to publication of their information, and the possibility of that happening again risks witness intimidation—including of other witnesses not identified in this motion,” Chutkan wrote.

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