ACLU backs Trump in fight against DC judge’s gag order

The American Civil Liberties Union announced Wednesday that it will file a court brief arguing that the limited gag order imposed on former President Donald Trump in the Washington, D.C., election interference case is unconstitutional.

The same day, federal prosecutors asked U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan to reinstate the currently suspended gag order, saying the order was necessary to prevent President Trump from targeting witnesses.

President Trump has a “proven history of ‘posturing’ with inflammatory language to target specific individuals.”[s] Special Counsel Jack Smith’s team argued in court papers filed Wednesday that there was a serious and imminent risk that witnesses would be intimidated.

In the ACLU’s draft brief, lead attorney Brett Kaufman said President Trump’s statements were “patently false” and “caused great harm not only to the Republic itself, but to countless individuals.” Stated.

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Former President Donald Trump speaks to members of the media at New York State Supreme Court on Wednesday, October 25, 2023. Donald Trump is facing off against New York Attorney General Letitia James in a controversial civil case that threatens his control. his in-state real estate empire; (Stephanie Keith/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

“However, Mr. Trump retains his First Amendment right to speak, and the rest of us retain the right to hear him speak,” the brief states.

President Trump used his social media platform, Truth Social, to hurl harsh insults and criticism at prosecutors, judges, and witnesses involved in the case against him.

On October 17, President Chutkhan imposed a partial gag order on President Trump, preventing him from making any targeted statements. Special Prosecutor Smithhis staff, witnesses and court personnel.

The judge said the former president was entitled to criticize the Justice Department in general terms and to express his view that the case against him was politically motivated. However, he also said that Trump cannot post attacks on prosecutors or court officials.

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jack smith and playing cards

Special Counsel Jack Smith argued that a partial gag order was needed to prevent former President Donald Trump from attacking prosecutors, witnesses and members of the court in the Washington, D.C., election interference case. (Getty Images)

President Trump has appealed the order, saying it violates his right to free speech, and Chutkan on Friday stayed the order pending the appeal. The former president then returned to posting about the special counsel and witnesses.

The ACLU said President Chutkhan’s order was too vague regarding the prohibition on “targeting” the special counsel, potential witnesses, and their “substances of testimony,” and that President Trump only mentions these people. They argue that this is because it can be interpreted as a violation of the order.

Civil rights groups also suggest the order is too broad because it targets the “substance” of testimony by Smith, a public official, and witnesses with major implications for the 2024 presidential election. Opinion polls for the 2024 Republican presidential primary show Trump holding an overwhelming lead.

Read the ACLU summary below. App users: click here

While the ACLU acknowledges that the First Amendment does not protect incitement to violence, threats, or other unlawful speech, the group does not believe that prosecutors believe Trump’s speech is serious enough to threaten the administration of justice. They argue that the gag order imposed on Trump is not fully justified because he did not pose a serious threat. .

“No modern president has done as much damage to civil liberties and civil rights as President Trump, but acknowledging his stripping away of free speech rights does not encourage other unpopular voices, even if we agree with them. We know that even the voices that speak out against us can be silenced,” ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero said. “While we did not agree with Donald Trump’s policies, everyone is entitled to the same First Amendment protections against gag orders that are too broad and too vague.”

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Courtroom sketch depicts former President Donald Trump's legal representatives in court

A courtroom sketch depicts U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan on August 11, 2023 in Washington, DC. (William J. Hennessy Jr.)

President Trump’s lawyer, John Lauro, said the ACLU brief “makes a very strong and persuasive legal case to preserve President Trump’s First Amendment rights. Many of the legal issues were also raised by our team.”

On Wednesday, the special counsel team responded to President Trump’s motion to stay. “The court gave the defendant unfettered rights to hear his case in the media, slandered the presiding judge as a ‘fraud’ and ‘hacker,’ attacked the prosecutor as ‘mentally insane,’ and a ‘thug.’ they wrote, noting that President Trump even said the actions of one of the witnesses required “punishment” of the “death penalty.”

Meanwhile, Trump was sentenced Wednesday to 10,000 yen for violating a separate gag order imposed by New York Judge Arthur Engoron in a civil case stemming from a lawsuit against New York Attorney General Letitia James and the Trump Organization. fined $.

Engoron is partial gag order Earlier this month, he blocked all parties from making derogatory comments about his court staff. Engoron on Friday fined Trump $5,000 for violating the order on social media and threatened him with jail time for further violations.

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On Wednesday, Mr. Engoron called on the former president to take the stand in a civil trial, and Mr. Trump told reporters earlier in the day that the judge’s “very partisan person is in the room.” We discussed about it.

After a back-and-forth, the judge ruled that Trump was referring to his law clerk (which Trump denied) and fined him $10,000.

FOX News’ Brooke Singman contributed to this report.

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