Justice Department (DOJ) special counsel Jack Smith on Friday pushed harder for a gag order that would limit what former President Trump can say publicly, citing his recent posts threatening witnesses in the criminal cases against him.
Smith and federal prosecutors initially made the request for a limited gag order earlier this month, seeking to restrict “certain prejudicial extrajudicial statements” from the former president about the case and witnesses.
“The defendant should not be permitted to continue to try this case in the court of public opinion rather than in the court of law, and thereby undermine the fairness and integrity of this proceeding,” prosecutors argued in the updated request late Friday.
The new request specifically cites Trump’s posts on Truth Social lashing out against Judge Tanya Chutkan, as well as former Vice President Mike Pence and former Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Gen. Mark Milley — who retired on Friday. Both men are expected to be called as witnesses in the case.
In the post about Milley last week, Trump said the general committed treason and should be executed. That threat drew derision from former Trump administration officials, with Milley responding that he would take “appropriate measures” to protect himself and his family.
“No other criminal defendant would be permitted to issue public statements insinuating that a known witness in his case should be executed; this defendant should not be, either,” prosecutors wrote in Friday’s filing.
Trump has also spoken about taking “retribution” against those her considers “political enemies” if he is elected to a second term, sparking fears that he could be intimidating witnesses or impacting the jury pool for his multiple criminal trials.
“The defendant’s baseless attacks on the Court and two individual prosecutors not only could subject them to threats — it also could cause potential jurors to develop views about the propriety of the prosecution, an improper consideration for a juror prior to trial,” prosecutors argued.
Trump denounced Smith’s attempt at a partial gag order earlier this month, calling it a limit on his constitutional rights — a claim prosecutors have refuted.
“Deranged Jack Smith, he’s the prosecutor, he’s a deranged person, wants to take away my rights under the First Amendment,” Trump said earlier this month. “He wants to take away my right of speaking freely and openly.”
“Never forget our enemies want to stop us because we are the only ones that can stop them,” the former president continued. “They want to take away my freedom because I will never let them take away your freedom.”
The updated request from prosecutors also references Trump’s visit to a South Carolina gun store last week, where he appeared to purchase a handgun. Purchasing a firearm as a person charged with a felony is a crime.
A Trump spokesperson initially said he purchased the gun, but later clarified that a purchase had not taken place.
“The defendant either purchased a gun in violation of the law and his conditions of release, or seeks to benefit from his supporters’ mistaken belief that he did so,” prosecutors said. “It would be a separate federal crime, and thus a violation of the defendant’s conditions of release, for him to purchase a gun while this felony indictment is pending.”
Chutkan, who earlier this week refused to recuse herself from the case, is expected to rule on the motion at an Oct. 16 hearing.
Trump pleaded not guilty in the case related to his alleged attempts to remain in power after losing to President Biden in 2020. The case is scheduled to go to trial beginning March 4.