Special counsel Jack Smith’s office argued Friday that Donald Trump’s recent attacks on Gen. Mark Milley and one of their own newly appointed prosecutors bolster their case to put a gag order on the former president ahead of his trial in Washington, D.C.
In a 22-page filing, senior assistant special counsel Molly Gaston said prosecutors rejected Trump’s claims that their proposed gag order was an attempt to silence him on the campaign trail. Rather, she said, it was an effort to prevent him from trying to make “use of his candidacy as a cover for making prejudicial public statements about this case.”
“[T]here is no legitimate need for the defendant, in the course of his campaign, to attack known witnesses regarding the substance of their anticipated testimony,” Gaston wrote.
The filing is prosecutors’ last word to U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan ahead of an Oct. 16 hearing on Smith’s proposed gag order. Since their original request, which was unsealed last week, Trump has unleashed a social media attack on Milley — suggesting he should have been put to death for treason — who is expected to be a witness in the case against him.
“[N]o other criminal defendant would be permitted to issue public statements insinuating that a known witness in his case should be executed,” Gaston wrote. “This defendant should not be, either.”
And after POLITICO revealed Smith’s appointment of a longtime war crimes prosecutor to his team, Trump uncorked another attack on Smith’s office. Prosecutors cited that attack as a potential danger as well.
Prosecutors say that Trump’s attacks are a form of witness intimidation and a way to taint the jury pool ahead of his highly anticipated trial, which Chutkan has scheduled for March 4. The judge has warned Trump to refrain from “inflammatory” comments about the case and suggested she could expedite his trial if they continue. Earlier this week, Chutkan denied Trump’s bid to remove her from the case.
Smith’s team also says Trump’s attacks on their office and on the judge herself threaten to taint the upcoming trial or drive up dangerous threats.
Prosecutors also sharply rejected efforts by some of Trump’s advisers to explain away some of his statements. They noted that after a Trump aide suggested the former president had purchased a firearm in South Carolina — a potential violation of federal law, since he’s under criminal indictment — his team later walked it back.
“The defendant either purchased a gun in violation of the law and his conditions of release, or seeks to benefit from his supporters’ mistaken belief that he did so,” Smith’s team said.
Smith’s office also rejected Trump’s argument that the indictment does not formally accuse Trump of having a role in the violence that unfolded on Jan. 6, instead accusing Smith of unfairly linking Trump to the riot in a brief public statement announcing the indictment last month.
“[T]he indictment does in fact clearly link the defendant and his actions to the events of January 6,” Gaston wrote. “In short, the indictment alleges that the defendant’s actions, including his campaign of knowingly false claims of election fraud, led to the events of January 6.”
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