Can accused Donald Trump discredit prosecutors or potential prosecution witnesses at will? The US Federal Court of Appeals on Monday appeared inclined to reimpose restrictions on the former president’s speech during his federal trial in Washington.
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The federal trial of the incumbent Republican primary candidate for his alleged illegal maneuvers to overturn the 2020 election results will begin on March 4, 2024. Judge Tanya Chutkan, who will preside over the proceedings, issued a ban in October on any partisan public comments “targeting” prosecutors, court staff and witnesses in this the case.
He has therefore been barred from calling Attorney General Jack Smith “crazy” and his colleagues “thugs” or from publicly attacking potential witnesses, but the favorite in the GOP primary could continue to attack his Democratic successor. Joe Biden and accusing his administration of using justice to exclude him from the race for the White House in 2024.
The three judges on the federal appeals court in Washington, which Trump took over, expressed doubts about the arguments of both the defense and prosecution for more than two hours, indicating that they could reimpose those restrictions, which were put on hold while the merits were decided. But by tightening it significantly.
“There is a very difficult balance in this context,” between the need to “protect the integrity and fact-finding function of this criminal proceeding and using a scalpel so as not to change the political arena,” one person summed up. From the judges.
Under the weight of questions, Donald Trump’s lawyer, John Sawyer, stuck to his positions, objecting to almost any legitimacy at the slightest level of his client’s expression. He admitted coolly that such restrictions would have to be justified by “extraordinary conclusive evidence, to say the least.”
He said: “There is an almost complete overlap between the issues in the file and those in the political campaign.”
“Threats and intimidation”
But one of the plaintiffs, Cecil Vandevender, pointed to “a very clear pattern and dynamic whereby, as a result of repeated incendiary personal attacks by the defendant against an individual, that individual was subjected to threats and intimidation” by the ex’s supporters. -president.
However, the Court of Appeal expressed doubt about the distinction, which in its view is very thin, between prosecutors and the Ministry of Justice, on which they rely.
She also questioned the criteria for determining permissible statements by Mr. Trump about potential witnesses, in the case of figures or officials who have publicly criticized him, such as his former chief of staff or his former attorney general.
To illustrate the scope of these restrictions, Judge Chutkan cited a comment in which the former boss of his network Truth Social considered the possibility that his last chief of staff, Mark Meadows, would testify against him in exchange for an offer of immunity by a private judge. District Attorney Jack Smith, who is investigating this case.
Behavior befitting the “weak and cowardly,” according to Donald Trump. He concluded: “I don’t think Mark Meadows is one of them, but who knows?” The judge explained that this type of attack on a potential witness would certainly fall under the ban.
Discussions also focused on the precise definition of the word “target,” which the defense described as “vague.”
Even the influential civil rights organization the American Civil Liberties Union, which is not suspected of sympathizing with the former president, whom it criticized throughout his term, denounced the decision that “depends entirely on the meaning of the word “target,” considering it “vague.”
The date when the decision will be issued is unknown.
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