Federal prosecutors are taking seriously the argued threat from commentary by former President Donald Trump of threats and violence, including developments that could constitute witness intimidation.
The team of Special Counsel Jack Smith has filed a new set of arguments with a federal appeals court asking for the reactivation of a gag order restricting Trump’s speech in the criminal case accusing him of conspiracies targeting the presidential election results from 2020.
Among other arguments, prosecutors insist there is an already observed connection between Trump’s words and violence or the threat of it, saying that Trump need not explicitly and directly encourage violence — or threats — to meet standards spurring a gag order. Prosecutors argued instead for a focus on effects — damaging effects of which they said Trump himself was already clearly aware.
“As the district court explained, JA.183, 202, 226, the defendant does not need to explicitly incite threats or violence in his public statements, because he well knows that, by publicly targeting perceived adversaries with inflammatory language, he can maintain a patina of plausible deniability while ensuring the desired results,” prosecutors said, adding: “What matters for present purposes is that everyone—the defendant, his followers, and the people targeted—are aware of the dynamic, which creates a “significant and immediate risk” of intimidation, threats, and harassment of those involved in the defendant’s trial and thus poses and intolerable risk of material prejudice to the proceedings.”
The original restrictions blocked Trump from making public attacks on Smith, members of Smith’s staff, witnesses, and others. At this stage, the order has been upheld by the judge who originally imposed it, Tanya Chutkan, who denied Trump’s request to put it on hold while he pursued appeals. The appeals court imposed a follow-up hold on the order, however, while it considers the arguments, which remain active. Contrary to characterizations from Trump, he would not be completely silenced in relation to the case if the restrictions are upheld.