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US election trial judge issues partial gag order on Trump

By AFP - Oct 16,2023 - Last updated at Oct 16,2023

WASHINGTON — The federal judge set to preside over Donald Trump’s trial for conspiring to overturn the 2020 US election imposed a partial gag order on the former president on Monday.

US District Judge Tanya Chutkan ordered Trump not to attack prosecutors, court staff or potential witnesses ahead of the historic trial schedulled to begin in Washington in March 2024.

Chutkan’s ruling came after special counsel Jack Smith, a frequent target of Trump’s vitriol, filed a motion arguing that the former president’s inflammatory rhetoric threatened to undermine his trial for election subversion.

Trump has described Chutkan in public comments and social media posts as a “fraud” and “Trump-hating judge”, Smith’s office as a “team of thugs”, and Washington as a “filthy and crime-ridden” city with a population “over 95 per cent anti-Trump”.

John Lauro, an attorney for Trump, argued against a gag order during a two-hour hearing in federal court on Monday, claiming that it would infringe on Trump’s First Amendment free speech rights.

“The Biden administration is seeking to censor a political candidate in the middle of a campaign,” Lauro said, in a reference to Trump’s bid to return to the White House in the 2024 presidential election.

“You’re trying to squelch political speech,” Lauro said.

Chutkan pushed back, saying Trump’s presidential candidacy does not give him “carte blanche to vilify public servants who are simply doing their jobs”.

“In what world is it permissible for a defendant to attack a prosecutor’s family?” she asked.


No trial delay 


Shortly before the hearing began, Trump posted on his Truth Social platform that the “TRUMP GAG ORDER that the CORRUPT Biden Administration is trying to obtain is totally Unconstitutional!”

In Truth Social comments on Sunday, he lashed out at Smith, calling him a “Leaking, Crooked and Deranged Prosecutor”, and disparaged Chutkan as a “highly partisan Obama appointed Judge”.

Trump said a gag order would make it “impossible for me to criticise those who are doing the silencing, namely Crooked Joe Biden”.

“They want to take away my First Amendment rights, and my ability to both campaign and defend myself,” he said. “In other words, they want to cheat and interfere in the 2024 Presidential Election.”

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