by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
This week, U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan overseeing United States v. Donald Trump issued a gag order prohibiting a leading presidential candidate, Donald Trump, from engaging in speech aimed at “government staff,” among others, during his trial.
Listen, I understand the disdain some conservatives feel for the former president. I share the sentiment. But if you’re cheering on a judge who’s inhibiting political speech on rickety grounds, you’re no friend of the “democracy” or the Constitution.
“Mr. Trump may still vigorously seek public support as a presidential candidate, debate policies and people related to that candidacy, criticize the current administration and assert his belief that this prosecution is politically motivated,” Chutkan explained. “But those critical [F]irst [A]mendment freedoms do not allow him to launch a pre-trial smear campaign against participating government staff, their families and foreseeable witnesses.”
Who is Chutkan to dictate the contours of a presidential candidate’s political speech? What if one of the “participating government staff” or a family member is compromised by partisanship? Moreover, preemptively suggesting that without gagging, Trump will engage in a “smear campaign” is as prejudicial to the case as any of the inflammatory things Trump has thrown around. It implies that any accusation now aimed at prosecutors is untrue.
Trump contends that he is being railroaded by special counsel Jack Smith, the longtime federal prosecutor who works on behalf of Democrats and Joe Biden. You might believe the special counsel is a chaste defender of Lady Justice, but there’s ample evidence that partisan considerations are in play. Fears of a politicized justice department are real. As we speak, the head of the Democratic Party is being mollycoddled by the state in a very similar case involving classified documents.