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Prosecutors urge judge to reinstate Trump gag order

WASHINGTON (AP) – Federal prosecutors are urging a judge to reinstate a gag order on Donald Trump, citing recent social media posts about the former United States (US) president’s chief of staff that they said represented an attempt to influence and intimidate a foreseeable witness in the case.

US District Judge Tanya Chutkan, who is presiding over the federal case charging Trump with plotting to overturn the results of the 2020 election, last week temporarily paused her order barring Trump from making inflammatory comments about prosecutors, court staff and potential witnesses.

The ruling came as Trump’s lawyers challenge the limited gag order in higher courts.

In a motion filed on Wednesday, special counsel Jack Smith’s team encouraged Chutkan to put the restrictions back in place.

Prosecutors cited in part statements in social media and at a news conference over the last day by Trump about his former chief of staff Mark Meadows, who was reported by ABC News on Tuesday to have testified before a grand jury after receiving immunity from prosecution.

The former president mused on social media about the possibility that Meadows, a close ally in the White House who was charged alongside Trump in a separate state prosecution in Georgia related to efforts to undo the election, would give testimony to Smith in exchange for immunity. One part of the post said: “Some people would make that deal, but they are weaklings and cowards, and so bad for the future our Failing Nation. I don’t think that Mark Meadows is one of them but who really knows?”

In their motion, Smith’s team cited the post about Meadows as an example of the type of commentary that the original gag order was meant to prohibit and a reason why the restrictions should be reinstated.

Trump, prosecutors wrote, has “capitalised on the Court’s administrative stay to, among other prejudicial conduct, send an unmistakable and threatening message to a foreseeable witness in this case”.

They added: “Unless the Court lifts the administrative stay, the defendant will not stop his harmful and prejudicial attacks. In addition, to the extent that the defendant’s public message – directed to the Chief of Staff, with knowledge that it would reach him – is not already covered by his release conditions, it is an intentional end-run around them.”

Smith’s team also asked Chutkan to modify the conditions of Trump’s pretrial release by making compliance with the gag order a condition, or by “clarifying that the existing condition barring communication with witnesses about the facts of the case includes indirect messages to witnesses made publicly on social media or in speeches”.

In a separate matter on Wednesday, Trump was fined USD10,000 after the judge in his civil fraud trial in New York said the former president had violated a gag order.

Former United States president Donald Trump speaks to the media as he exits the courtroom at the New York Supreme Court in New York, United States. PHOTO: AFP
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