Given Trump’s penchant for bombastic public statements and using his social media accounts to settle political scores, a clash like the one currently unfolding before Chutkan seems inevitable, especially given the number of he criminal cases facing Trump has grown to four.
Trump lashed out on his social network Truth Social shortly after the request was announced, writing: “So I’m campaigning for President against an incompetent person who WEAPONIZED the DOJ and FBI to go after his political opponent, and I’m not allowed to COMMENT? They’re running, lying and Sue, and they won’t let me SPEAK? »
Although any measure of silence limits a defendant’s First Amendment rights, Trump’s situation is unique in that he is mounting a campaign to return to the White House and intends to use criminal cases as part of his efforts to energize his political base.
But in their new motion, prosecutors say Trump’s posts represent more than just a violation of decorum, because his public vitriol has a history of triggering harassment from Trump supporters. The prosecution specifically cited Trump’s attacks on his former cybersecurity aide Chris Krebs, Georgia election worker Ruby Freeman and former Georgia lieutenant governor Geoff Duncan as examples of figures who were threatened after being singled out for finger by the former president on social networks.
Earlier Friday, a federal appeals court also unsealed records showing the same team of prosecutors fought in court to block Twitter from informing Trump of an active search warrant — fearing that informing him cannot “precipitate violence” or allow him to attack and intimidate witnesses. .
Taken together, government records over a period of months paint an extraordinary picture of a former president as a particularly dangerous threat to the courts, the justice system and those who would line up against him in his four criminal cases. They say he uses that platform — primarily Truth Social and television interviews — to spread knowing lies about his critics and the legal process in ways that stoke the fury of his supporters, some of whom feel compelled to act on his behalf .
In Chutkan’s filings, Justice Department lawyers also highlighted Trump’s repeated incendiary attacks against Smith himself, another special prosecutor, Jay Bratt, and against Chutkan. They accused Trump of spreading a “deliberate lie” by accusing Bratt of meeting with officials from President Joe Biden’s White House when he was actually conducting a “routine” interview with a career military official stationed at the White House.
Prosecutors have also repeatedly complained about Trump’s pointed criticism of the city where those supposed to decide his guilt or innocence in the case are located, Washington, D.C., and his public suggestions that all jury sitting in the capital would be biased.
“I cannot get a fair trial, or even close to a fair trial, in Washington, DC,” Trump wrote on Truth Social last month. “I am calling for federal leadership to address this filthy and criminal embarrassment to our nation. …The federal takeover is very unpopular with potential jurors in the region, but it is necessary for greatness and the entire world!”
Last month, during Chutkan’s first hearing in the case, judge warned Trump could face consequences if he sought to stir up the passions linked to the prosecutions.
“His running a political campaign must take precedence over the orderly administration of justice,” Chutkan told Trump lawyer John Lauro during the Aug. 11 hearing, at which the defendant was excused from attending. “If that means he can’t say exactly what he wants to say about the witnesses in this case, that’s the way it has to be.”
“Even arguably ambiguous statements by the parties or their attorneys, if they can reasonably be interpreted as intimidating witnesses or prejudicial to potential jurors, can threaten the process,” Chutkan added. “I will take all necessary measures to safeguard the integrity of this procedure.”
Earlier this week, Trump’s lawyers filed a motion asking Chutkan to withdraw from the case, arguing that her past comments in other cases related to January 6 indicate that she had concluded that Trump was guilty or at less deserved to be charged. Prosecutors oppose efforts to impeach her.
Trump’s lawyers have asked him to rule on that issue before considering any further motions in the case.