By Jack Phillips
Days after a federal judge temporarily lifted a gag order, former President Donald Trump criticized special counsel Jack Smith on social media.
U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan granted President Trump a temporary hold last week on her previous ruling in the 2020 election conspiracy case while the Trump legal team is appealing the order, arguing that it is unconstitutional.
In the meantime, President Trump criticized Mr. Smith on Truth Social as being “deranged” and said his team “leak[ed]” a story to the New York Times about an Australian businessman, Anthony Pratt, claiming the former president told classified secrets to him. He denied those reports.
“With this in mind, there is NO WAY I can get a fair trial on a Biden, Election Interference Indictment, in D.C. Obviously, at the appropriate time, if this ridiculous case should be allowed to proceed forward, which is, according to legal scholars, very doubtful, I will be making a demand for a Venue Change!” he also wrote on the social media platform.
Earlier this month, Judge Chutkan ordered President Trump to not make any posts or statements regarding possible witnesses, Mr. Smith, his family, or court staff, although he can make general statements about the Department of Justice and Washington itself. Prosecutors alleged that the former president’s posts on social media could incite violence or contaminate the jury pool, while Trump’s attorneys argued that such an order would violate his right to free speech—especially as he is a leading candidate for the 2024 presidential election.
“President Trump is the forty-fifth President of the United States and the leading candidate in the upcoming Presidential Election,” his defense attorneys wrote. “He has dominating leads in the race for the Republican nomination, and he leads President Biden.”
However, the federal judge rejected the former president’s arguments regarding the election, saying that “no other criminal defendant would be allowed to do so, and I’m not going to allow it in this case.” She would impose sanctions if the partial gag order is violated, she said without elaborating.
Meanwhile, Mr. Smith’s prosecutors wanted broader restrictions targeting the former president, arguing that his social media comments targeting various individuals could prejudice the proceedings. But the judge denied his bid to restrict his comments about the people of Washington who can be jurors in the trial, and she also declined to restrict his statements criticizing the federal government.
“He does not have the right to say and do exactly what he pleases. Do you agree with that?” she asked Trump attorney John Lauro during a court hearing on Oct. 16, who replied with, “100 percent.”
“Nothing like this has ever happened in our Country before,” President Trump said earlier this month about the order, criticizing Judge Chutkan as a “highly partisan Obama appointed Judge,” referring to former President Barack Obama’s appointment of her in 2014.
In the case, President Trump pleaded not guilty to the four-count indictment, which is one of four separate criminal cases against him while he seeks to become the 2024 Republican nominee for the White House. He also currently is facing a civil fraud trial in New York City over his sprawling real estate business, and he has also denied wrongdoing in the case.
It wasn’t the first time that a judge issued a gag order targeting the former president. New York Judge Arthur Engoron issued a partial gag order that blocks personal criticism of courtroom personnel after President Trump accused his principal clerk of having a cozy relationship with Senate Democrat Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).
On Friday, he was fined $5,000 by the New York judge after a post about his clerk reportedly stayed up on his campaign website for several weeks, despite the former president having deleted it from social media. His attorneys said that it was an oversight.
It comes as the Trump campaign confirmed the former president will hold a rally in Florida as counter-programming to the third Republican presidential primary debate, which he is once again choosing to skip.
The campaign stated he will hold a rally the evening of Nov. 8th at a stadium in Hialeah, Florida about a half-hour drive from the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County, where his rivals will be meeting. President Trump has repeatedly said he sees no point in participating, given his commanding lead in the race.
NBC will be hosting the November debate, which will require candidates to secure 4 percent of the vote in multiple polls and 70,000 unique donors to qualify.
During he first debate, the former president competed with the first debate with a pre-recorded interview with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson that was posted that night on X, the site formerly known as Twitter. He spent the second in battleground Michigan, where he tried to win over auto workers and blue-collar voters by railing against President Joe Biden’s push for electric cars.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.