Special Counsel Jack Smith has filed a request for a “narrowly tailored” gag order against President Donald Trump that would limit his ability to speak out against judges and prosecutors in the midst of the presidential campaign.
The gag order motion has been filed with Judge Tanya Chutkan, the jurist overseeing the January 6 case against Donald Trump, who has been asked to recuse herself over her history of anti-Trump statements and hyperbolic language over the Capitol riots.
CBS News’ Catherine Herridge reported on the disturbing legal development.
“Federal prosecutors filed a motion to restrict former President Trump from making comments about witnesses, lawyers, and judges in the case surrounding his alleged attempt to overturn the 2020 election,” Herridge reported.
“Special counsel Jack Smith’s team says a ‘narrow well-defined order’ is necessary to preserve the integrity of the case,” she continued. “Prosecutors write that the former president has repeatedly and widely disseminated public statements attacking those involved in the prosecution against him.”
“Let’s bring in criminal defense attorney Joseph Tully,” she went on. “I’ve got the filing right here, and I just want to draw your attention to some of the language so we can better understand it. On page 13, it says, the government proposes two narrowly tailored orders. What does a narrowly tailored mean in this context?”
“Narrowly tailored is a legal phrase and it means it doesn’t do more than it absolutely has to,” Tully replied. “If you’re going to put restrictions on somebody, especially about something very important, constitutional rights, if you have to restrict it, it has to be narrowly tailored.”
“So I just want to go a little further into the filings because it gives some examples,” Herridge said. “It says prescribing extra judicial statements by any lawyer, party witness, or court official. That sounds pretty broad though.”
“That’s actually pretty common within jury trials,” Tully replied. “The concern is that the judge doesn’t want the case to be tried in the press. So what they do is they issue that gag order in order to protect the judicial integrity.”
“So how would this work with a defendant like former President Trump?” she asked.
“Well, I was very troubled by the language in the government’s briefs,” he responded. “I think that they’re attacking him. They’re basically saying he can’t have a point of view, and it was very troubling to read all of the statements from the government.”
“Normally speaking, judges leave out a defendant in a criminal case, so they can order an attorney to abide by a gag order,” he continued. “They can order witnesses, police officers, court employees, but they normally stay away from somebody who’s charged in a crime.”
“So what I’m hearing you say is that what makes this motion really stand out to you is that the gag order is applied to a defendant, which is something you don’t normally see. Is that correct?” Herridge asked.
“Correct,” Tully said. “They’re applying it to a defendant, which is very rare, and if you read the language, they’re saying that he has no right to comment about the case, and they’re saying basically that our case against him is true and that he should not have an opinion that it is contrary to our opinion.”
“What are the consequences if this narrow gag order is violated by the former president?” Herridge asked.
“Then he would be held in contempt of court and he could be confined,” Tully said. “In other words, put in jail while awaiting trial. He’s out on or bail. He has certain conditions, and if he violates those conditions, he could be essentially locked up while he’s waiting trial.”
Thus, Donald Trump could become yet another January 6 political prisoner in the heat of the 2024 presidential campaign. Certainly, the J6 case will be tried in the anti-Trump press, while the former president would not be legally permitted to defend himself.
This should be ‘troubling’ to any American who values free speech and due process.