The federal court hearing the election interference case against Donald Trump has reinstated a gag order on the former president after he took to social media to speculate about the pressure his former staffers might be under to turn on him and possibly lie to save themselves.
At the request of the Justice Department, U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan issued a new gag order on the former president on the evening of October 29. The order had been previously issued earlier this month and was temporarily lifted on October 20 after Trump’s lawyers appealed. Chutkan also denied Trump’s request for a long-term stay during his appeal, as reported by CNN.
“And contrary to Defendant’s argument, the right to a fair trial is not his alone, but belongs also to the government and the public,” the judge wrote.
Special Counsel Jack Smith argued in a filing Wednesday night that Chutkan should reinstate the gag order on Trump that she imposed the previous week but which she put on temporary hold pending an appeal by Trump’s attorneys.
In the filing, the prosecution argued that since the stay on the order, Trump has “returned to the very sort of targeting that the Order prohibits, including attempting to intimidate and influence foreseeable witnesses, and commenting on the substance of their testimony.”
The filing included a reproduction of a Truth Social post by Trump in which he speculated that his former chief of staff, Mark Meadows, may have been told by Smith to “make up some really horrible ‘STUFF'” about the former president or face prison.
In the post, Trump called those who would make such deals “weaklings and cowards, and so bad for the future [of] our Failing Nation,” while adding, “I don’t think that Mark Meadows is one of them, but who really knows?”
Trump’s defense team has found an unlikely ally in its opposition to Judge Chutkan’s gag order: the typically left-leaning American Civil Liberties Union. On Wednesday, the ACLU filed an amicus brief arguing that the limited gag order was unconstitutional for being too “vague” and “broad.”
The brief argues that the gag order’s intent to stop the targeting of the special counsel’s office from the defendant’s criticism violates the First Amendment.
“[T]he order applies to speech that ‘targets’ the Special Counsel and its staff. But like the Court itself, which is excluded from the order’s terms, the Special Counsel is a public official. Attempts to gag speech that addresses how the Special Counsel is conducting his work, on the grounds of ensuring the proper and impartial administration of justice, unduly undermine public discussion on matters of public concern that is at the heart of what the First Amendment protects.”
The ACLU argued that the gag order is too broad as it would prohibit “mere ‘disparagement'” based on the fear that Trump’s words could inspire others to engage in violence. On this concern, the amicus brief says, “But the First Amendment does not authorize the Court to impose a judicial gag order on Defendant merely because third parties who hear his public statements may behave badly of their own accord.”
The prospect of former deputies of Trump accepting prosecutors’ deals to provide evidence against him is not limited to Mark Meadows.
In a tearful apology, former Trump attorney and one of 17 others charged in the State of Georgia’s RICO case related to the 2020 election, Jenna Ellis, told the court, “If I knew then what I know now, I would have declined to represent Donald Trump in these post-election challenges.”
As part of her guilty plea, Ellis is expected to cooperate with the state in building its case against the other defendants, including the former president.