Former President Donald Trump turned heads at a rally on Monday after a federal judge placed a partial gag order on him at the request of special counsel Jack Smith during a court session in Washington, D.C.
U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan, who is overseeing the case involving charges related to the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol Building, issued the order after Smith’s team argued that Trump’s statements on social media and elsewhere endangered court staff, the court itself, and federal officers associated with the trial. They also argued that Trump’s words were an attempt to taint the jury pool ahead of a trial.
“First Amendment protections yield to the administration of justice and to the protection of witnesses,” Judge Tanya Chutkan said Monday as she issued the gag order, Politico reported. “His presidential candidacy does not give him carte blanche to vilify … public servants who are simply doing their job.”
But, during his Clive, Iowa, rally, Trump appeared defiant and even vowed, at one point, to go to jail in order to exercise his right to speak about his various legal cases as the 2024 campaign cycle heats up.
“They’re getting beaten very badly by me in the polls. They think the only way they can catch me is to stop me from speaking, they want to take away my voice. A judge gave a gag order today. Did you hear that? On speech. Which I believe is totally unconstitutional, what she did,” Trump said at one point, according to a video posted by RSBN to the X platform.
“A judge gave a gag order. A judge doesn’t like me too much. Her whole life is not liking me,” he continued.
“She gave me a gag order. Do you know what a gag order is? You can’t speak badly about your opponent,” he continued. “But this is weaponry all being done because Joe Biden is losing the election. And losing very, very badly to all of us in the polls.”
Trump then made this vow: “But what they don’t understand is that I am willing to go to jail if that’s what it takes for our country to win and to become a democracy again.” (See video below)
It’s not clear how jailing a former president would work in practice, however, given that by law he is entitled to Secret Service protection 24/7.
The ex-president was ordered to keep quiet after he made a public post on Truth Social about a law clerk during his New York civil fraud trial last week.
“Given that the defendant—after apparently reviewing opposition research on court staff—chose to use social media to publicly attack a court staffer, there is cause for concern about what he may do with social media research on potential jurors in this case,” Smith wrote in the motion.
Smith wrote that protections for prospective jurors are necessary for a number of reasons, but “chief among them is the defendant’s continued use of social media as a weapon of intimidation in court proceedings.”
Smith requested “reasonable and standard restrictions” to limit the ability of parties in the case “to conduct research on potential jurors during jury selection and trial and to use juror research.” He also urged strict enforcement of “standard practices in this District designed to shield juror identities from the public,” Axios noted.
Smith was recently thwarted again in his attempt to implicate another Republican as he widens his investigation into the Capitol riot.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled earlier this month that Smith cannot have access to the phone records of Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.) because allowing him to obtain that data amounts to a breach of the Republican lawmaker’s immunity under the Constitution’s “speech and debate” clause.
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