DOJ asks federal judge to reinstate Donald Trump’s gag order in election conspiracy case

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WASHINGTON – Justice Department prosecutors urged a federal judge Wednesday to reinstate the gag order against Donald Trump for commenting on potential witnesses in his election conspiracy case.

The filing came the same day a New York judge fined Trump $10,000 for his second violation of a gag order in his civil fraud trial.

U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan ordered Trump on Oct. 16 not to comment about court staff, prosecutors or witnesses in her case. But she suspended the order Friday while he appeals her decision.

During the suspension, Trump commented on social media Tuesday about former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows.



Special counsel Jack Smith’s team argued in a Wednesday filing that Trump’s history of targeting perceived adversaries with “disparaging and inflammatory comments” poses “a grave threat to the very notion of a fair trial based on the facts and the law.”

“There has never been a criminal case in which a court has granted a defendant an unfettered right to try his case in the media, malign the presiding judge as a ‘fraud’ and a ‘hack,’ attack the prosecutor as ‘deranged’ and a ‘thug,’ and, after promising witnesses and others, ‘IF YOU GO AFTER ME, I’M COMING AFTER YOU,’ target specific witnesses with attacks on their character and credibility, even suggesting that one witness’s actions warrant the “punishment” of ‘DEATH!’,” Smith’s team said.

Former President Donald Trump sits in court with his attorney Christopher Kise during his civil fraud trial at New York State Supreme Court on October 24, 2023 in New York City. The former president may be forced to sell off his properties after Justice Arthur Engoron canceled his business certificates and ruled that he committed fraud for years while building his real estate empire after being sued by Attorney General Letitia James, seeking $250 million in damages. The trial will determine how much he and his companies will be penalized for the fraud.

Trump has argued he has a First Amendment right to comment on the half-dozen criminal and civil trials he faces. He contends the Biden administration is trying to muzzle him as he campaigns for president in 2024.

“No Court in American history has imposed a gag order on a criminal defendant who is campaigning for public office − least of all, on the leading candidate for President of the United States,” Trump’s lawyers wrote in their memo asking Chutkan to suspend her order during the appeal. “This violation of the First Amendment is egregious and intolerable.”

The federal gag order was the second imposed against Trump. The judge presiding over his New York fraud trial, Arthur Engoron, ordered Trump on Oct. 3 not to comment on court staff. Engoron fined him $5,000 on Friday for leaving a social-media post featuring a court clerk visible on Trump’s campaign web site for two weeks and $10,000 on Wednesday for a hallway comment the judge ruled was about the clerk.

Trump said under oath he was referring to a witness, Michael Cohen. But Engoron said he found Trump “not credible.”

Federal prosecutors initially asked for a gag order before his trial scheduled May 20 on charges he tried to overturn the 2020 election by arguing his comments could intimidate witnesses and lead to threats of violence against court staff and prosecutors. Trump faces four charges and has pleaded not guilty.

Then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows speaks with reporters at the White House, Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020, in Washington.

Then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows speaks with reporters at the White House, Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020, in Washington.

Meadows, a co-defendant with Trump in the Georgia election conspiracy case, could also be a key witness in the federal case because he arranged and attended meetings at the heart of the alleged election conspiracy. Meadows participated in Trump’s call Jan. 2, 2021, asking Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” enough votes for him to win the state. Meadows also tried to observe an audit of ballots in Cobb County, Georgia, but was turned away.

Meadows has pleaded not guilty in Georgia and argued he should be immune from prosecution because he was simply doing his job managing Trump’s meetings as chief of staff.

ABC News and others have reported that Meadows has met repeatedly with Smith’s team as a possible witness in the federal case.

Trump said in a post Tuesday on Truth Social he didn’t think Meadows would lie about the election just to get an immunity deal, to avoid losing money and possible be imprisoned. Trump said people taking plea deals “are weaklings and cowards.”

Contributing: Aysha Bagchi

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Donald Trump’s federal gag order should be reinstated: DOJ

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