OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
Special Counsel Jack Smith made a mistake when he called possible witnesses “political witnesses” in his response brief to the Trump legal team’s appeal of U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan’s gag order on the former president.
Judge Chutkan gave the former president an unprecedented gag order last month that doesn’t let him talk about important parts of the case. A lot of people who care about civil liberties have spoken out against the order, and the Trump campaign has been accused of meddling in the election.
Smith asked for the motion to be granted, but Chutkan quickly took back her own order after Trump filed an appeal. A D.C. appeals court temporarily put the order on hold after putting it back in place about a week later.
In the appeals process, both the prosecution and the defense were told to turn in their briefs early, before the due dates set for them. Smith’s office used some of Trump’s social media posts to support the gag order in their brief.
“At the hearing that followed, the district court reviewed several of the defendant’s social media posts, which fell into ‘roughly five categories,’” Smith wrote. This included statements about Judge Chutkan and district court employees, statements about Smith and his team, and statements about “political witnesses.”
Smith was seemingly referring to “potential witnesses,” though the potentially revealing error has raised eyebrows. “Talk about slip of the tongue,” said independent reporter Julie Kelly in an X post.
While the appeals process for Chutkan’s gag order plays out, former President Trump already has a huge victory in the fraud case against New York Attorney General Letitia James after an appeals court decided to overturn Judge Arthur F. Engoron’s gag order.
Judge David Friedman of the first department of the appellate division made the decision from the bench on Friday, the AP reported.
Because it was against the Constitution, Friedman got rid of the gag order, pointing out that Trump had the right to free speech.
When the order was given on October 3, it was meant to keep Trump from talking about any Engoron staff member in public. This happened after Trump said things on social media and to the press that made people doubt the fairness of the trial because Alison Greenfield, Engoron’s main law clerk, was said to have political ties.
Trump had said bad things about Engoron’s law clerk, saying she had ties to Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and calling the trial a “witch hunt.” Engoron then took issue with Trump’s post on Truth Social that was negative about Greenfield and showed a picture of her with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY).
Trump wrote in a since-deleted post, “Schumer’s girlfriend, Alison R. Greenfield, is running this case against me. How disgraceful! This case should be dismissed immediately.”
Trump’s attorneys and supporters have used the gag orders as evidence that the trial was politically motivated. This is part of what they see as a pattern of bias against the former president.
“You saw what was just put out about Schumer and the principal clerk. That is disgraceful,” Trump told the press, adding that the trial was “rigged” and “fraudulent.”
Now that the gag order has been lifted, Trump can speak freely, which supporters say was his right all along and should never have been taken away.