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16 October 2023

Court arguments due over bid to gag Donald Trump

16 October 2023

Federal prosecutors and lawyers for Donald Trump will argue in court on Monday over a proposed gag order.

The gag order is aimed at reining in the former president’s diatribes against likely witnesses and others in his 2020 election interference case in Washington.

In pressing US District Judge Tanya Chutkan to impose the order, special counsel Jack Smith’s team has accused Mr Trump of using increasingly incendiary rhetoric to try to undermine the public’s confidence in the justice system and taint the jury pool.

The former president’s defence has called the proposal an unconstitutional effort to “silence” his political speech as he campaigns for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024.

His lawyers wrote in court papers: “This desperate effort at censorship is unconstitutional on its face.”

It comes on the heels of the judge overseeing Mr Trump’s civil fraud trial in New York imposing a more limited gag order, prohibiting personal attacks against court personnel following a social media post which maligned the judge’s principal clerk.

Prosecutors are asking the judge to bar Mr Trump and lawyers from making statements “that pose a substantial likelihood of material prejudice to this case”, including inflammatory or intimidating remarks about witnesses, lawyers and other people involved in the case.

It is not clear whether the judge, who has said Mr Trump does not have to attend the hearing, will issue a ruling on Monday.

It is the first time the lawyers will appear before the judge since she denied Mr Trump’s request to recuse herself from the case, which alleges he illegally schemed to overturn his 2020 election loss to President Joe Biden. Mr Trump has denied any wrongdoing.

The defence had claimed Ms Chutkan’s comments about Mr Trump in other cases raised questions about whether she had prejudged his guilt, but she said her comments were mischaracterised and there was no need for her to step aside.

Mr Trump has frequently used social media to attack her, prosecutors, likely witnesses and others, despite warnings from the judge – who was appointed by president Barack Obama – that inflammatory comments could force her to move up the trial which is scheduled to begin in March.

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