Judge Chutkan Informs Trump The First Amendment Doesn’t Shield Him

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Federal Judge Tanya Chutkan recently issued a comprehensive rejection of a range of arguments by former President Donald Trump challenging his criminal case on allegations of attempted election subversion. The judge’s decision includes a refutation of the argument that the First Amendment, providing free speech protections, is violated by Trump’s indictment from Special Counsel Jack Smith.

In short, she wrote that the broad protections for speech that Trump claimed to cover his conduct simply weren’t as he described them. Instead, First Amendment protections have generally been construed to protect speech when the central issue is, in fact, the speech, even if that’s lying in certain contexts. That’s not all Trump is alleged to have done, though. He’s accused of using the speech in which he was engaging in attempted furtherance of criminal conspiracies that would have blocked the free expression of the right to vote by perhaps millions of residents in certain states that Biden won.

“And it enumerates Defendant’s specific statements only to support the allegations that Defendant joined conspiracies and attempted to obstruct the election certification, such as the allegations that Defendant knowingly made false claims about the election results,” Chutkan’s ruling said of the underlying Trump indictment, adding: “The Indictment therefore properly alleges Defendant’s statements were made in furtherance of a criminal scheme.”

“But Defendant is not being prosecuted for his “view” on a political dispute; he is being prosecuted for acts constituting criminal conspiracy and obstruction of the electoral process,” the judge added. “And any political motives Defendant may have had in doing so do not insulate his conduct from prosecution.” Trump also tried to claim special protections for speech in which government action is sought, such as Trump was ostensibly doing in trying to orchestrate a block of Biden’s victory, but the judge rebuffed this. In the same extensive ruling, the judge also rejected the idea that former presidents hold nearly absolute immunity from criminal prosecution for actions ostensibly taken as part of their duties. Read Chutkan’s ruling right here.