On Monday (October 16), U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan issued a limited gag order on the former president after a lengthy hearing. The decree prevents Trump from publicly attacking Special Counsel Jack Smith and his family, court staff, and potential witnesses in the upcoming trial concerning his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.
Trump has argued that a gag order would impact his rights to free speech, and that was echoed in arguments by his lawyer, John F. Lauro. Judge Chutkan slapped down those claims, saying that Trump’s right to free speech does not allow him “to launch a pretrial smear campaign” against people. “No other defendant would be allowed to do so,” she added, “and I’m not going to allow it in this case.”
The limited gag order is the second that was handed to Trump in the last two weeks, with the first being ordered by Judge Arthur F. Engoron in his civil trial in Manhattan. Judge Engoron made the order after Trump posted a photo to his Truth Social account falsely claiming that Engoron’s law clerk was dating Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer. “Personal attacks on members of my court staff are unacceptable, inappropriate and I won’t tolerate it,” he stated to Trump’s attorneys.
It is notable that the gag order has limitations that exclude President Joe Biden as well as Judge Chutkan from being targeted by Trump in his comments. She had been threatened in the past, resulting in the arrest of a Texas woman. “It’s possible to craft a narrowly tailored order to serve those interests,” Judge Chutkan stated during the hearing. The limitations also seem to allow Trump to make comments about former Vice President Mike Pence as long as the remarks didn’t focus on Pence’s role in the criminal case.
Trump’s response came while he was at a campaign stop in Iowa. “They put a gag order on me, and I’m not supposed to be talking about things that bad people do, and so we’ll be appealing very quickly,” Trump said before adding, “I’ll be the only politician in history where I won’t be allowed to criticize people.”