Trump election interference case: Judge grants limited gag order

A federal judge on Monday said she will bar former President Donald Trump from making statements attacking special counsel Jack Smith, court staff or witnesses as he faces allegations that he conspired to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, according to multiple reports.

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U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan did not immediately say how the limited gag order would be enforced, The New York Times reported. It will not block Trump from sharing general criticism of the Justice Department or airing allegations that the prosecution is politically motivated, according to The Associated Press.

Prosecutors last month asked for a “narrow, well-defined restriction” on Trump’s speech, pointing to “disparaging and inflammatory” posts that the former president made on social media. Attorneys for Trump argued that prosecutors were trying to “unconstitutionally silence” their client for political reasons amid the 2024 race for White House.

Trump is the front-runner in the Republican race for the presidential nomination.

Prosecutor Molly Gaston said Monday in court that the gag order was needed because “it cannot be that the defendant is allowed to intentionally try this case in the court of public opinion,” the Times reported.

“We have no interest in stopping the defendant from running for office or defending his reputation, nor does our proposed order do this,” Gaston said, according to the AP.

Trump’s attorney, John Lauro, said issuing a gag order would amount to “censorship” and be impossible to enforce, the Times reported. Chutkin earlier acknowledged “some concerns” about the breadth of the order sought by prosecutors, but indicated before her ruling Monday that some restrictions might be necessary.

“We’re not talking about censorship here,” she said, according to the AP. “We’re talking restrictions to ensure there is a fair administration of justice on this case.”

The judge added that Trump “could criticize President (Joe) Biden to his heart’s content because President Biden has nothing to do with this case,” the Times reported.

In a post late Sunday on social media, the former president called Smith — the special prosecutor who is overseeing federal cases involving Trump — “A Leaking, Crooked and Deranged Prosecutor” and said authorities “want to take away my First Amendment rights, and my ability to both campaign and defend myself.”

In August, Trump pleaded not guilty to four counts related to efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

In a 45-page indictment, authorities charged Trump with conspiracy to defraud the U.S., conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, obstruction of and attempt to obstruct an official proceeding and conspiracy against rights. They said that Trump schemed to hold on to power after he lost the 2020 election to Biden, pressuring officials to try to get them to overturn the results and lying for months about alleged election fraud.

The charges against Trump were filed as part of Smith’s monthslong investigation into the former president’s involvement in the Jan. 6, 2021, violence at the U.S. Capitol. Smith is also overseeing a federal case in Florida, where Trump faces charges for his handling of classified documents found last year at his Mar-a-Lago estate.

In New York, Trump is also facing state charges related to hush-money payments made to three people, which prosecutors said were aimed at illegally influencing the 2016 presidential election. He has also been sued by the state’s attorney general, who has accused him, some of his family members and his Trump Organization of fraud.

The former president is also facing ongoing litigation brought by longtime magazine columnist E. Jean Carroll after a civil jury found him liable for battering and defaming her in May.