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US special counsel requests gag order on Trump in election interference case; ex-president reacts

The 19-page gag order has included inflammatory posts made by Trump on his platform, Truth Social, where he called Judge Tanya Chutkan a "radical Obama hack".

Aveek Banerjee Edited By: Aveek Banerjee Washington Published on: September 16, 2023 18:19 IST
Former US President Donald Trump
Image Source : AP Former US President Donald Trump

Jack Smith, the special counsel for US Justice Department overseeing the election interference case against former President Donald Trump, has asked a judge to place him under a gag order to prevent him from publicly discussing about the case.

BBC reported that District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan unsealed Smith's request among a slew of older court documents on Friday. According to Smith, the "narrowly tailored, well-defined" order would prevent harassment of witnesses. If the gag order is approved, it would prevent Trump from making public statements regarding the identity, testimony and credibility of potential witnesses.

However, it would not place any restrictions on Trump from quoting from public record court documents or proclaiming his innocence. “The defendant knows that when he publicly attacks individuals and institutions, he inspires others to perpetrate threats and harassment against his targets,” said prosecutors in the filing.

The 19-page order request has included several posts on Trump's social media platform Truth Social, since he was indicted on four criminal charges pertaining to attempts of overturning the 2020 presidential elections and conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding. Smith also cited Trump's posts where he called Chutkan "a fraud dressed up as a judge" and a "biased, Trump-hating judge".

Trump's criticisms led to a woman calling the judge and sending a racist death threat, prosecutors said. The woman has now been arrested. Additionally, an election worker in Georgia targeted by Trump's posts was subject to harassment from his supporters.

Last week, Trump's attorneys wrote to Judge Chutkan, calling her biased against the former President and asked her to recuse herself from the election interference case.

Trump's response

The gag order request has been opposed by Trump's attorneys and the former President himself. In a post on Truth Social, Trump said, "Biden Prosecutor, Deranged Jack Smith, has asked the Court to limit 45th President, and leading Republican Nominee (by more than 50 points, & beating Dems!) DONALD J. TRUMP’S, PUBLIC STATEMENTS. So, I’m campaigning for President against an incompetent person who has WEAPONIZED the DOJ & FBI to go after his Political Opponent, & I am not allowed to COMMENT?"

"They Leak, Lie, & Sue, & they won’t allow me to SPEAK? How else would I explain that Jack Smith is DERANGED, or Crooked Joe is INCOMPETENT?" he continued.

Afterwards, Trump at a conference in Washington claimed that Smith wants to snatch his rights under the 'First Amendment' and that his public statements are being limited at a time when he is the leading Republican nominee and effectively winning over the Democrats.

"These people are sick and they want to silence me because I will never let them silence you," said Trump at the Concerned Women of America conference.

Last month, Trump was indicted in the election interference case led by Smith on charges of deliberately incited violent attacks on the US Capitol in 2021 in a frantic attempt to undermine American democracy and forcing his federal colleagues including Vice President Mike Pence to overturn the results of the presidential elections.

"The attack on our nation’s Capitol on January 6, 2021, was an unprecedented assault on the seat of American democracy," Smith said. "It was fueled by lies, lies by the defendant targeted at obstructing a bedrock function of the US government: the nation’s process of collecting counting and certifying the results of the presidential election," he added.

Notably, other legal indictments against Trump includes charges related to falsification of business records and mishandling of classified documents after leaving the White House, apart from his efforts to remain in power by making unsubstantiated claims of electoral fraud after losing the 2020 election to President Joe Biden.

Trump has so far pleaded not guilty to his alleged attempts of trying to reverse the results of the last elections.

ALSO READ | US: Former Trump official convicted of contempt for refusing to cooperate with 2021 Capitol riot probe

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