Judge Tanya Chutkan made it clear on Tuesday that her sole goal is to protect the integrity of the trial and a gag order has only become necessary because of Trump’s behavior.
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Donald Trump and his surrogates will have his supporters believe that a gag order placed on the former president prevents him from campaigning or criticizing President Joe Biden, the Department of Justice, and special counsel Jack Smith. In reality, it does none of these things.
Judge Tanya Chutkan on Tuesday issued her written order and made it clear that its sole goal is to protect the integrity of the trial and has only become necessary because of Trump’s behavior and rhetoric.
“Undisputed testimony cited by the government demonstrates that when Defendant has publicly attacked individuals, including on matters related to this case, those individuals are consequently threatened and harassed,” she wrote.
Specifically, the order prevents Trump or anybody else from making public statements that target Smith and his staff, the defense counsel or their staff, the court’s staff, and “any reasonably foreseeable witness or the substance of their testimony.”
However, Chutkan stated that the order is meant to protect the individuals named above from threats and harassment and not to diminish Trump’s ability to comment on the case or criticize his political rivals — even those who might be called to testify in the case.
“This order shall not be construed to prohibit Defendant from making statements criticizing the government generally, including the current administration or the Department of Justice; statements asserting that Defendant is innocent of the charges against him, or that his prosecution is politically motivated; or statements criticizing the campaign platforms or policies of Defendant’s current political rivals, such as former Vice President Pence,” Chutkan wrote.
In other words, Trump can still rant and rave all he wants; he just has to tone down his language a bit.
Of course, he and his campaign grossly exaggerated what the order would do.
“A terrible thing happened to democracy today — gag order,” the former president wrote on Truth Social.
And a campaign spokesperson slammed the decision as “an absolute abomination and another partisan knife stuck in the heart of our Democracy by Crooked Joe Biden.”
Obviously, based on the actual text of the gag order, all of that is total nonsense.
But that didn’t stop Trump from amplifying the incorrect statements of some of his surrogates.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), for example, managed to cram a remarkable amount of nonsense in a very brief statement.
She complained that the media is allowed to cover court proceedings and said the order destroyed the First Amendment, that Trump isn’t allowed to defend himself, and that “this entire operation is run by Joe Biden.”
Trump also “retruthed” a post from Mike Davis, a former Senate Judiciary Committee counsel who helped him get his judicial nominees confirmed in the first two years of his presidency.
“Barring a criminal defendant from publicly criticizing the prosecutor and judge is clearly unconstitutional,” Davis wrote.
That may be the case, but it’s not what is happening here, so Davis is either confused or didn’t read the order.
He may want to. It’s only three pages long, and it irrevocably states that Trump is not above the law.
“The bottom line is that equal justice under law requires the equal treatment of criminal defendants,” Chutkan wrote. “Defendant’s presidential candidacy cannot excuse statements that would otherwise intolerably jeopardize these proceedings.”