Former President Donald Trump, a Republican presidential candidate, speaks at a South Dakota Republican Party rally in Rapid City, South Dakota, Sept. 8, 2023.
Jonathan Ernst | Reuters
WASHINGTON — Special counsel Jack Smith on Friday asked a federal judge to bar former President Donald Trump from publicly discussing the testimony and credibility of potential witnesses, or the evidence, in his federal election interference trial in DC
The request came in the form of a move which has laid out many of the 2024 Republican presidential front-runner’s most aggressive social media posts in recent months. It included posts in which Trump targeted potential witnesses, including former Vice President Mike Pence, as well as the judge presiding over the case and the US attorneys prosecuting him.
“The defendant knows that when he publicly attacks individuals and institutions, he inspires others to carry out threats and harassment against his targets,” prosecutors wrote.
Since his indictment, they wrote, Trump has “spread disparaging and inflammatory public posts on Truth Social on an almost daily basis regarding the citizens of the District of Columbia, Courts, prosecutors, and prospective witnesses .”
These posts have already had real consequences, they added. Shortly after the Trump case, “an individual was arrested because he called the Court chambers and made racist death threats to the Court related to the Court’s role in presiding over” the Trump case.
The only solution, the special counsel argued, is for US District Judge Tanya Chutkan to issue an order holding Trump to the same standards to which his lawyers are held.
Under these standards, Trump would be barred from making public statements about “‘the identity, testimony, or credibility of prospective witnesses’ and the ‘merits of the case or the evidence in the case.'”
Smith argued that this would be a “narrow, well-defined restriction.” But if Trump’s past statements are any indication, such a decision could effectively open up a wide range of statements Trump could make in the future about the case that violate the order and could leave him exposed to additional charges.
By the same token, compliance with such an order, should the judge issue it, could significantly change what Trump says on his social media platform, Truth Social, and at campaign rallies, where he often disparages Smith, Chutkan and likely who are witnesses.
Trump’s trial is scheduled to begin on March 4, 2024, one day before the Super Tuesday primary contests, which could effectively hand him the Republican nomination, if current polling trends hold.
Trump’s presidential campaign quickly responded to the motion, accusing prosecutors of “corruptly and cynically continuing to attempt to strip President Trump of his First Amendment rights.”
“This is nothing more than blatant election interference because President Trump is the leading candidate in this race,” campaign spokesman Steve Cheung said in a statement.
In addition to seeking a “narrow” gag order, prosecutors also asked the court to require that any polls of potential jurors be pre-approved by the judge, to prevent the defense from sending polls that would have an effect. of swaying jurors in Trump’s favor, in the same way that pollsters can influence respondents by how they ask questions.
The four-count indictment filed by Smith on August 1 charged Trump, and only Trump, with conspiracy to defraud the United States and conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, as well as actually obstructing an official proceedings. Finally, Trump was charged with violating a statute that criminalizes conspiring to deprive others of their constitutionally protected rights. By seeking to reverse his 2020 election loss by changing the vote totals, prosecutors argued, Trump deprived voters of the right to cast ballots that were fairly counted.