OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author’s opinion.
The Obama-appointed judge presiding over the federal election interference case against former President Donald Trump has reinstated a gag order, restricting his freedom to freely criticize the prosecution and his fellow defendants in the case.
After hearing Trump’s argument that the gag order unfairly hindered his defense, U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan reportedly reversed an earlier decision, pausing the order. As evidence, they pointed to a recent post that Trump made on Truth Social about Mark Meadows, Trump’s former chief of staff and co-defendant, in which Trump implied “weaklings” would take plea deals in exchange for reduced sentences, and argued that Trump was intimidating witnesses.
In her recent ruling, Chutkan reassured former President Donald Trump by preventing the Department of Justice from prosecuting him for breaking his gag order in his federal election interference case.
Chutkan denied a request from federal prosecutors to include the gag order in Trump’s conditions of release in a footnote of her opinion reinstating the gag order, Politico reported.
“Even assuming that request is procedurally proper, the court concludes that granting it is not necessary to effectively enforce the Order at this time,” according to her.
Trump has broad rights to speak publicly about his case, as emphasized by Chutkan’s order, but those rights cannot be exercised at the expense of the “orderly administration of justice.”
Trump’s “repeated appeals to broad First Amendment values therefore ignores that the court — pursuant to its obligation to protect the integrity of the proceedings — recognized those values, but in balancing them against the potential prejudice resulting from certain kinds of statements, found them outweighed,” Chutkan wrote.
The judge pointed to a different post by Trump, in which he claimed there would be “100% evidence” at his trial showing that President Joe Biden stole the 2020 election (in contrast to his statement about Meadows). According to Chutkan, this kind of disclosure is legal despite the gag order.
Overnight, Trump let his followers know how he feels about Chukan, calling her a “Biased, Trump Hating Judge” and saying the gag order will “put me at a disadvantage against my prosecutorial and political opponents.”
This has already been a bad week for Special Counsel Jack Smith.
Smith’s team has quietly withdrawn a second subpoena for records pertaining to then-President Trump’s 2020 campaign, according to a report published late last week.
The New York Times said that the subpoena was initially “part of their investigation into whether Mr. Trump’s political and fund-raising operations committed any crimes as he sought to stay in power after he lost the election, according to two people familiar with the matter.”
The Times continued, “The decision to effectively kill the subpoena to the Trump campaign came on the heels of the withdrawal of a similar subpoena to Save America, the political action committee that Mr. Trump’s advisers formed shortly after he lost the election in 2020.”
The outlet went on to speculate that the withdrawal of the two subpoenas seeking records from Donald J. Trump for President Inc. and the Save America PAC indicated that Smith was either slowing his probe into whether Trump’s political operations violated any laws by claiming the 2020 election was rife with fraud. The withdrawal could also indicate that Smith’s team is closing that aspect of the months-long investigation.
Trump’s team had long maintained that language used in fundraising materials is often exaggerated and bombastic. They note that the First Amendment protects such language, though Smith’s team drilled down deeper into those materials to see if the campaign or Save America had violated any laws.
According to the Post, Smith is reducing the number of subpoenas he issued in an attempt to learn whether or not Trump tried to profit from spreading false rumors that Joe Biden stole the 2020 election.
According to two sources familiar with the situation, Smith’s demand was dropped while Save America was in the midst of compiling responsive documents.