Prosecutors want to ‘silence’ Trump with gag order in election case, say lawyers

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Lawyers for former US president Donald Trump are slamming prosecutors’ request for a narrow gag order in his 2020 election subversion case in Washington, calling it an effort to “unconstitutionally silence” his political speech.

In court papers filed late on Monday, lawyers for Mr Trump urge US District Judge Tanya Chutkan to deny the proposal to bar the Republican ex-president from making inflammatory and intimidating comments about witnesses, lawyers and other people involved in the criminal case.

Mr Trump’s lawyers call the request a “desperate effort at censorship” that would prevent him from telling his side of the story on the campaign trial as he runs to retake the White House in 2024.

“If the prosecution wishes to avoid criticism for abusing its power, the solution is simple: stop abusing its power. The Constitution allows no alternative.”

In seeking the order earlier this month, special counsel Jack Smith’s team pointed to what it said is a pattern of “false and inflammatory” statements by Mr Trump about the case as well as comments meant to intimidate or harass people he believes are potential witnesses against him.

Prosecutors told the judge that a “narrow, well-defined” order was necessary to preserve the integrity of the case and to avoid prejudicing potential jurors.

Mr Trump’s lawyers said prosecutors have not proved why such an order would be necessary, saying that his social media posts have not intimidated any possible witnesses and that there is no real concern his comments would taint the jury pool.

Mr Trump’s lawyers have also asked the judge to recuse herself from the case, saying her past public statements about him and his connection to the January 6 2021 insurrection at the US Capitol call into question whether she can be fair.

There is a high bar for recusal, and Mr Smith’s team has said there is no valid basis to have the judge removed from the case.

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