WASHINGTON, UNITED STATES — Donald Trump pushed back on Monday against a bid by government lawyers to restrict what he can share publicly about his historic prosecution for allegedly conspiring to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
“I shouldn’t have a protective order placed on me because it would impinge upon my right to FREE SPEECH,” the former president said in a post on his Truth Social platform.
“Deranged Jack Smith and the Department of Injustice should, however, because they are illegally ‘leaking’ all over the place!” he added in a reference to the special counsel who filed the case against him.
In a court filing, lawyers for the former president also argued on Monday that the restrictions proposed by Smith would violate Trump’s right to free speech under the First Amendment to the Constitution.
“In a trial about First Amendment rights, the government seeks to restrict First Amendment rights,” Trump’s attorney John Lauro said, putting forward a line of argument that defense lawyers are expected to make at trial.
Prosecutors asked US District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan, who is to preside over the case, for a protective order on Friday after Trump posted “If you go after me, I’m coming after you!” on Truth Social.
“Such a restriction is particularly important in this case because the defendant has previously issued public statements on social media regarding witnesses, judges, attorneys, and others associated with legal matters pending against him,” they said.
“If the defendant were to begin issuing public posts using details — or, for example, grand jury transcripts — obtained in discovery here, it could have a harmful chilling effect on witnesses or adversely affect the fair administration of justice in this case,” they added.
In his response to the government motion, Lauro, Trump’s lawyer, said it was “overbroad” and prosecutors were asking the court to “assume the role of censor and impose content-based regulations on President Trump’s political speech.”
Lauro asked the judge to limit the protective order to “genuinely sensitive materials” while “preserving the First Amendment rights of President Trump.”
The court filing came just hours after Trump repeated his demand that Chutkan, who was appointed by former Democratic president Barack Obama, be recused from the case.
The twice-impeached Republican has unleashed a stream of invective against those prosecuting him for allegedly trying to overturn the 2020 election results and defraud the United States.
On Sunday, Trump said “there is no way I can get a fair trial with the judge ‘assigned’ to the ridiculous freedom of speech/fair elections case. Everybody knows this, and so does she.”
Trump also said he would seek to have the trial moved out of the nation’s capital, which leans heavily Democratic.
Chutkan, 61, has a legal history with Trump, having ruled against him in a November 2021 case in which she notably declared that “presidents are not kings.”
And she has handed down lengthy sentences to Trump supporters who stormed the US Capitol on 6 January 2021 in a bid to block the congressional certification of Democrat Joe Biden’s election victory.