Donald Trump wants the judge presiding over the federal case against him for his alleged incitement of an insurrection on January 6 to repeal the gag order she placed upon the former president.
This has been a legal hot potato between Trump and the presiding judge, as Trump argues that the case against him is already politically motivated and the gag order is intended to stymie his free speech on the campaign trail, as he runs for reelection.
For her part, Judge Tanya Chutkan has countered that her gag order was limited. Chutkan has outlined how Trump’s First Amendment rights were not stifled, as the former president insists.
The judge even claimed that she allowed for the forty-fifth president to publicly attack the Justice Department, along with his presidential rivals—including then-candidate Mike Pence, who many observers believe could be used as a witness against Trump. The forty-fifth president, however, wants to castigate Judge Chutkan, the federal prosecutors doggedly pursuing him, and the likely witnesses to be called by the prosecution.
This, in the view of Judge Chutkan, is a legal bridge too far. After all, going after possible witnesses on his Truth Social platform or at his various rallies, could be construed as witness intimidation which is not allowed.
Chutkan has further stated that attacking either the prosecutors or herself could “inspire independent third parties to engage in threats or harassment toward witnesses, prosecutors, or court staff.”
Yet, as Trump’s legal defense team rightly pointed out in their arguments to lift the gag order on the former president, the prosecution has never presented evidence showing a threat to the court or the officers of the court.
All these actions, then, are preemptive and, as the defense team believes, these preemptive protective actions are unfairly tilting the trial in the prosecution’s favor.
What’s more, the Trump legal team has argued that the gag order is negatively impacting Trump’s political campaign—which is presently dominating his Republican Party challengers and, according to some polls, would defeat President Joe Biden in key swing states if the election were held today.
Trump’s Campaign is Fueled By Grievance
Since Trump’s ongoing legal dramas have become a key plank in the forty-fifth president’s reelection bid, the gag order is complicating Trump’s campaign.
If he cannot kvetch about his unfair treatment by the Administrative State, then he cannot remind the voters that “they’re coming after [him] to get to you.”
Whatever one thinks about Trump’s legal problems, his team does have a point: there has been no evidence showing any form of a threat posed to the court by Trump speaking about his legal woes in public. Further, Trump himself has never advocated violence against any of his legal foes.
The rights of the defendant should always be protected, especially because in our system one is innocent until proven guilty. The prosecution has yet to make its case against Trump.
In the meantime, he is running for the presidency, and he is winning thus far. While it is common for judges to issue gag orders to protect the legal process or to protect witnesses and officers of the court, there usually must be some evidence presented warranting such an extraordinary action.
Simply talking about the trial in public, while rarely advisable for defendants, is insufficient to gag the former president as he runs for high office again.
America Needs to Decide Donald Trump’s Fate
Recently, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and a candidate for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination in 2024, argued against using the legal system as a backdoor way to stop Trump’s reelection campaign. According to Christie, the American voters would never accept seeing a viable presidential candidate kneecapped by legal technicalities.
Instead, they would want to have their say about that candidate’s fate at the ballot box, rather than leaving it to unelected judges.
Christie is correct.
The Democrats continue to decry Trump’s threat to our hallowed democratic norms and institutions. But if the Democrats really cared about preserving these norms, they’d not be so ready to risk upsetting the voters during a tense election cycle by using these legal technicalities to silence a competitive candidate for president. They’d let the voters decide Trump’s fate.
All these trials and the endless days of rage directed against a former, septuagenarian president are only breathing life into his campaign which, a year ago, most Republican voters were ready to walk away from. Ever since the spate of indictments were cast against Trump, though, Trump appears to be the victim of political persecution.
Preemptively silencing Trump with a gag order when no viable threat has been made against the judge, the prosecution, or potential witnesses is an overreach and Judge Chutkan should drop until evidence of a real threat can be found.
A 19FortyFive Senior Editor and an energy analyst at the The-Pipeline, Brandon J. Weichert is a former Congressional staffer and geopolitical analyst who is a contributor at The Washington Times, as well as at the Asia Times. He is the author of Winning Space: How America Remains a Superpower (Republic Book Publishers), Biohacked: China’s Race to Control Life (Encounter Books), and The Shadow War: Iran’s Quest for Supremacy (Republic Book Publishers). Weichert occasionally serves as a Subject Matter Expert for various organizations, including the Department of Defense. He can be followed via Twitter @WeTheBrandon. The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author’s own.
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