Trump dismisses risks, asks appeals court to toss gag order
Former President Trump diminished the risks of his attacks on those involved in his federal election interference case, complaining he has been hit with a gag order based on “speculation” about what his followers might do.
The comment came in Trump’s first brief as he appeals a gag order issued by Judge Tanya Chutkan that bars him from making statements that would “target” foreseeable witnesses, prosecutors or court personnel involved in the case.
The filing, which comes after several rounds of earlier briefs on the gag order, largely repeats Trump’s arguments that they are a violation of his First Amendment rights, contending they are especially important to the candidate for office.
But they also dismiss Chutkan’s decision as “speculation that President Trump’s audiences might react to his speech with ‘harassment’ or ‘threats’ to prosecutors, witnesses, or court staff.”
“President Trump has made many public statements about this case in the three months since his indictment, and yet the Department of Justice … submitted no evidence of any ‘threats’ or ‘harassment’ to prosecutors, witnesses, or court staff during that time,” his attorneys wrote.
An initial September motion for the gag order mentioned numerous instances in which Trump’s prior comments about the election had spurred threats against his targets, including against two Georgia election workers later forced to leave their homes for their safety as well as a Pennsylvania election official who later received death threats against himself and his family.
In the filing, Trump points to a moment in a hearing over the gag order in which prosecutors said the risks in this case were speculative.
But in later filings, prosecutors accused Trump of making improper statements, including one directed at his former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, saying it violated prohibition on contacting or threatening witnesses.
In the post, Trump mused over reports Meadows accepted an immunity deal, saying those who do so “are weaklings and cowards.”
And while Chutkan declined to include herself in the gag order, she has faced threats since being assigned to the case, including by a Texas woman who left a threatening and racist voicemail for the judge.
Chutkan has previously chided Trump’s team for failing to recognize the risks of his speech.
“Several times the court and the government pointed to evidence causally linking certain kinds of statements with those risks, and Defendant never disputed it,” Chutkan said of their Oct. 16 hearing to weigh the matter.
“The evidence is in the record; Defendant simply fails to acknowledge it.”
Trump is also under a gag order in his New York financial fraud case where he has twice been fined for making comments about court staff.
Judge Arthur Engoron said that since the start of the trial, he’s been “inundated with hundreds of threatening and harassing phone calls” and letters.
He later extended the order barring comments about his staff to Trump’s attorneys, citing “the need to protect them from threats and physical harm.”