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Federal judge imposes limited gag order on Trump in 2020 election interference case

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U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan has issued a limited gag order on former President Donald Trump regarding the 2020 election interference case. This decision follows a lengthy hearing in a federal court in Washington, D.C., where special counsel Jack Smith and his team requested restrictions on what Trump can publicly say about the case brought against him by the Justice Department.

The judge’s ruling grants the Justice Department’s request to restrict specific statements by Trump that could potentially harm the trial, emphasizing that this is about protecting the administration of justice. However, she denied Smith’s request to prohibit Trump from making statements about the District of Columbia, the Biden administration, or the Justice Department.

The special counsel argued that Trump has a history of making inflammatory statements that could prejudice the case, effectively trying it in the court of public opinion. In contrast, Trump’s defense claimed that such an order would infringe on his right to free speech and hinder his political campaign, arguing that the case and the campaign are closely intertwined.

The judge scrutinized the proposed gag order, focusing on specific areas where restrictions could be applied, such as statements about Washington, D.C., criticisms of the Biden administration, discussions about Smith and his team, comments about the court and its staff, and remarks about witnesses in the case. She highlighted some of Trump’s past comments, including his criticisms of the capital and individuals involved in the case.

While the defense sought to delay the proceedings until after the 2024 presidential election and asserted that Trump’s statements were protected by the First Amendment, Judge Chutkan was determined to prevent witness intimidation. Her ruling emphasizes that Trump’s presidential candidacy doesn’t grant him unlimited freedom to vilify prosecutors or others involved in the case, and it reflects her concerns about maintaining a fair trial process.

Any violation of the new order by any party involved in the case could result in unspecified sanctions, as warned by the judge. In response to the ruling, Trump’s campaign sent out a fundraising email characterizing the proposed gag order as an attempt to infringe on his First Amendment rights.

Former President Trump faces four charges, including conspiracy and obstructing Congress’s work, related to alleged attempts to reverse the 2020 election results. He has pleaded not guilty, and the trial is scheduled for March 2024, coinciding with the presidential primary elections.

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