In a new piece, Politico’s Jack Shafer assumes former President Donald Trump will be unable to help himself from breaking the gag orders newly imposed upon him. Shafer asks, “What will the judges do when [Trump] inevitably breaks their gag orders?”
“Two judges have now wrapped gags around Trump’s big mouth in two of the many court cases he faces,” Shafer wrote. Justice Arthur Engoron gagged Trump in a New York state civil fraud case after Trump made a demeaning social media post about Engoron’s law clerk. Judge Tanya Chutkan gagged Trump over concerns he would attack witnesses and prosecutors in the federal case relating to Trump’s involvement in January 6.
But will Donald Trump be able to resist himself? Will he be able to keep his mouth shut and honor the two separate gag orders? Shafer doesn’t think so.
Can Donald Trump keep quiet?
Trump has already vowed to appeal the gag orders, which he should. But in the meantime, “What are the chances that Trump will chew the gag orders ragged and spit them out?” Shafer asks. “Excellent, if you review his biography. This is, after all, the man who, when told not to look at the sun during an eclipse, looked into the sun.”
Shafer seems unconcerned with the First Amendment implications of gagging a former president amid a re-election campaign, from making what many might qualify as protected political speech – which for a journalist is concerning in and of itself. Shafer instead is very supportive of the gag orders, writing: “the damage and potential violence that Trump’s utterances can summon from his supporters are very real. In August, the day after Trump posted “IF YOU GO AFTER ME, I’M COMING AFTER YOU!” on his Truth Social account, a Texas woman left Chutkan a voicemail message in which she said, “If Trump doesn’t get elected in 2024, we are coming to kill you, so tread lightly, *****.””
I don’t condone Trump’s behavior, or think his social media posts are benevolent, necessarily. But the connection between Trump’s social media post and the voicemail left for Chutkan is more attenuated than Shafer gives credit. And attenuated connections between Trump social media posts and Trump-fan-behavior may not justify gagging a presidential candidate amid a presidential campaign.
But Shafer may well be correct in his assessment that Trump has a difficult time biting his tongue. Trump is indeed impulsive and crude. He is often self-destructive in his verbiage – and is always destructive.
“While some measure of calculation guides Trump’s language – he knows which words punish and stress his foes – evidence has mounted that he just can’t help himself from talking that way,” Shafer wrote. “Like a 3-year-old or a riled German Shepherd, he lacks impulse control. When feeling threatened, his first instinct is to aim low and hit hard with maximum cruelty. Paraphrasing beat poet Allen Ginsberg’s “firth though, best thought” maxim, Trump believes that the most vile utterances equals the best utterance. Like a drunk in his tanks, Trump is always looking for a fight and reliably finds one.”
No argument from me here. Trump lacks impulse control, relishes a fight, and wields his vocabulary like a school yard bully.
Harrison Kass is the Senior Editor and opinion writer at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, Harrison joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison holds a BA from Lake Forest College, a JD from the University of Oregon, and an MA from New York University. Harrison listens to Dokken.