After two days of Trump's NY trial, it's clear a gag order MUST be imposed!
Special Treatment for Trump must end!
One thing is apparent from the first two days of the civil fraud case against Donald Trump in New York where he has repeatedly attacked and smeared the judge, the New York Attorney General, the judge’s law clerk and the entire judicial system: A gag order against Trump must be imposed. (And not a very limited one like the judge presiding over the fraud trial imposed Wednesday afternoon that ONLY prohibits comments about any member of the judge’s staff.) It’s way past time to end Trump’s special treatment that no other American would be afforded who engaged in the same conduct.
While unrelated to the New York fraud case, Special Counsel Jack Smith’s recent motion seeking a limited gag order against Trump in his election subversion case is very instructive. As Smith’s pleadings sets forth about Trump: “The defendant should not be permitted to continue to try this case in the court of public opinion rather than in the court of law, and thereby undermine the fairness and integrity of this proceeding.”
Yet that is exactly what is happening in the New York fraud case. Trump is intentionally undermining the integrity of the this case with his very public attacks on Judge Arthur Engoron –who is presiding over this case--and the New York Attorney General Letitia James who brought the $250 million civil fraud case against Trump, his company and others.
While Trump’s smear campaign against the Judge and AG James predates this trial, his conduct over the first two days of trial was even more egregious. Trump—unlike any defendant we’ve ever seen-- stood in the courthouse where he spoke to the media with the obvious goal of delegitimizing the proceedings.
Trump—who is facing 91 felonies in four different jurisdictions-- called the New York case a “sham” and a “scam.”
He smeared Judge Engoron as a “rogue judge,” as “a judge that should be disbarred" and who “should be out of office." And come Tuesday morning, Trump continued his assault against Judge Engoron on his social media platform writing that he should punished for his rulings--from being “sanctioned” to criminally prosecuted for his “intentional and criminal interference with the Presidential Election of 2024.”
When it came to Attorney General James, Trump’s comments were even more vile and dangerous. Trump called James a “racist,” “who is corrupt” as he lied that the entire investigation—which began in 2019—was politically motivated. On Tuesday, in the courthouse Trump again publicly attacked James with lies, claiming she was a “fraud” and the evidence her offices was presenting to the court was “fraudulent.”
But it was Trump’s words on Monday that appeared to target James for retribution that was deeply alarming. That is when Trump declared: “You ought to go after this attorney general.” (This coming after a week of Trump embracing increasingly violent rhetoric.)
Then on Tuesday, Trump alarmingly posted an image during the trial on social media that targeted the Judge’s young law clerk. The post Trump shared with his millions of followers included the law clerk’s name, a photo of her and the lie that she was Senator Chuck “Schumer’s girlfriend” who he claimed was “running this case against me.” He then demanded the case be dismissed. After about two hours of the post being up, Trump removed it but clearly he was irresponsibly bringing the clerk to the attention of his followers because he viewed her as a threat.
We know that when Trump targets people by name a subset of his supporters will respond with threats against those individuals. In fact, Special Counsel Smith raised that very point in his recent pending motion for a gag order, writing “The defendant knows that when he publicly attacks individuals and institutions, he inspires others to perpetrate threats and harassment against his targets.”
In a particularly jarring passage, Smith’s team wrote about Trump: “The defendant continues these attacks on individuals precisely because he knows that in doing so, he is able to roil the public and marshal and prompt his supporters.”
This is in large part why the top prosecutors in each of the four criminal cases against Trump now require round-the-clock protection—as the New York Times recently reported. This is something you would expect to read about in a case with a terrorist leader or mafia boss, but instead it involves the leading 2024 GOP presidential candidate.
In fact, Smith’s team last week filed an additional brief in support of their proposed gag order highlighting Trump’s recent attack of potential trial witnesses. One of the most alarming examples Smith’s team flagged was that Trump had suggested that General Mark Milley be executed for speaking to his Chinese counterparts during the period after the 2020 election when Trump attempted to stay in power. Smith’s team wrote, “No other criminal defendant would be permitted to issue public statements insinuating that a known witness in his case should be executed,” adding, “This defendant should not be, either.”
Yet to date the judges presiding over Trump’s cases have allowed this to continue.
Barring the imposition of a gag order, what we have seen Trump do these first two days of the New York fraud trial must be viewed as coming attractions of what we can expect Trump to do on a daily basis in his upcoming criminal cases. He will hold court daily with the media--before and after court proceedings--smearing judges, prosecutors, witnesses, the evidence, etc. And in those cases, there is the additional concern that Trump could wrongly influence or even intimidate jurors—all issues raised by Smith in his gag order motion.
The time for Trump to be treated like any other defendant is long past due. A narrowly tailored gag order should be entered by the judges presiding over his cases that protects the sanctity of the process—as well as the safety of those involved--until the cases are over.
Trump can still claim he’s innocent, what he can’t do is smear judges, prosecutors, witnesses by name, improperly influence jurors or otherwise incite violence. It’s time the judges turn the expression “No is above the law,” into reality.
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