“IF YOU GO AFTER ME, I’M COMING AFTER YOU.”
When a defendant posts that on their social media platform, it should not come as too much of a surprise when a gag order is imposed upon them.
Donald Trump is no stranger to gag orders. On day two of his ongoing civil fraud trial, Judge Arthur Engoron imposed such a restriction on the former president after he posted an image of a court clerk with Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.
“Personal attacks on members of my court staff are unacceptable and inappropriate and I will not tolerate them under any circumstances,” Engoron said in announcing the gag order. Since then, Trump has breached it twice, costing him $15,000 so far in violations.
It’s Not Just Civil…
On Sunday, District Judge Tanya Chutkan reinstated her limited gag order on the former president in the federal election interference case in Washington D.C. Despite being requested in September by Special Counsel Jack Smith and appealed by Trump’s attorneys, Trump is now restricted “from making any public statements, or directing others to make any public statements, that target (1) the Special Counsel prosecuting this case or his staff; (2) defense counsel or their staff; (3) any of this court’s staff or other supporting personnel; or (4) any reasonably foreseeable witness or the substance of their testimony.”
In addition, Judge Chutkan said such statements posed a “significant and immediate risk” of intimidating witnesses and harassing or threatening attorneys and court staff, a risk which she deemed “largely irreversible.”
Gag orders are deemed unconstitutional by critics, who believe them to be a breach of the First Amendment right to freedom of speech. They’re infrequently imposed, but designed to protect individuals who could be crucial to a trial.
It’s All Meadows
Last week, it was reported that former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows had agreed to an immunity deal, excluding him from federal prosecution in the Washington D.C. indictment in exchange for testimony against the Republican frontrunner.
“Some people would make that deal,” Trump wrote on Truth Social, “but they are weaklings and cowards, and so bad for the future of our Failing Nation. I don’t think that Mark Meadows is one of them, but who really knows?”
For a man who’s likely to spend more time in the courtroom than he is on the campaign trail next year, Donald Trump has no other choice other than to politicize his legal battles. However, the aggressive rhetoric which has become synonymous with his political successes contradicts with the protection of witnesses in a court of law. He’s currently subjected to two gag orders across his seven main trials over the next year; don’t be surprised if there are more to come.
Shay Bottomley is a British journalist based in Canada. He has written for the Western Standard, Maidenhead Advertiser, Slough Express, Windsor Express, Berkshire Live and Southend Echo, and has covered notable events including the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.