Trump attorney clashes with judges in gag order hearing

 November 21, 2023

Donald Trump's lawyer took a passionate stand for the First Amendment during heated arguments in court Monday against Jack Smith's gag order. 

Three liberal judges of the D.C. Circuit sounded skeptical of Trump attorney John Sauer as he made a sweeping defense of Trump's "absolute" right to speak his mind in Smith's "election subversion" case.

At the same time, the judges pushed back on Smith's demands for almost total deference from Trump, who has routinely labeled Smith a "deranged" political hack.

Trump defends free speech

Judge Patricia Millett was particularly sharp in her questioning, even shaking her head as Sauer gave his responses to various hypothetical prompts.

Millett suggested that some of Trump's political speech would not merit protection if it is "aimed at derailing or corrupting the criminal justice process."

"You make very important points about political speech," Millett, an Obama appointee, said. "But the Supreme Court says there should be a balancing test with protecting the criminal trial process."

Sauer noted that there is a "near complete overlap" between Trump's presidential campaign and the trial itself, leaving very little room for restrictions.

He added that the gag order unfairly limits Trump's political speech on the basis of vague, speculative threats from independent actors, but the judges weren't so sure.

"Why does the district court have to wait and see, and wait for the threats to come, rather than taking a reasonable action in advance?” judge Bradley Garcia, a Biden nominee, asked.

Smith gets some pushback

Even as they quizzed Trump's attorney, the judges pushed back on Smith and his demands for almost total protection from criticism.

As a government official, Smith "surely.... has a thick enough skin" to withstand heated rhetoric, judge Cornelia Pillard, an Obama appointee, said.

The judges even sounded skeptical of Smith's claim that Trump had intimidated General Mark Milley in a post that referenced the death penalty. They noted that Trump was responding to public attacks from Milley, who had likened Trump to a "wannabe dictator."

Smith has vaguely warned that Trump's rhetoric could lead to violence and unfairly swing the jury in Trump's favor. Over 90 percent of voters in Washington D.C. - where the trial is located - chose Joe Biden in the 2020 election.

The gag order was approved by D.C. judge Tanya Chutkan, who has openly mused that Trump belongs in prison because of January 6th.

" A free people [claim] their rights, as derived from the laws of nature."
Thomas Jefferson
© 2015 - 2024 Conservative Institute. All Rights Reserved.