The American Civil Liberties Union issued a statement on October 25 calling a recent gag order issued against former President Donald Trump to likely violate his constitutional rights. U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan had ordered Trump not to discuss matters of the case against him in public including making any verbal attacks against prosecutor Jack Smith. Trump has been threatened with fines and jail time for violating the order which is currently stayed while Trump’s legal team seeks a ruling from an appeals court.
In its statement, the ACLU said that constitutional problems with the order arise due to vagueness in the order. They explained that it would be impossible to determine when or what speech was a violation of the gag order.
BREAKING: ACLU Sides With Trump, Says Gag Order Violates First Amendmenthttps://t.co/5q04pH8JWK
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“This isn’t the first time that we have said that even Donald Trump’s First Amendment rights have to be protected,” the director of the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project Ben Wizer said. “It’s always been our view that if free speech rights don’t belong to all, then they don’t belong to any.”
The organization added that because Trump is a current presidential candidate and the outcome of the case bears heavily on the election, there is am immense public interest in hearing both sides of the story publicly. By issuing the gag order, Chutkan is preventing the American people from knowing the truth about the trial which focuses on the former presidents actions around the 2020 election. Trump is accused of interfering with the election and creating a riot following a speech he gave on January 6, 2020.
On that day, a peaceful protest by Trump supporters at the U.S. Capitol building turned deadly when several groups breached security barriers and entered the building through broken windows. Once inside, the groups of people raided offices and made a show of “occupying” the building in the name of the American people. Democrats have called the incident a riot and an insurrection, but prosecutors face a steep uphill battle to prove the charges in court.
Prosecutors argue that the gag order is narrow in scope and requires that Trump not speak ill of court staff, prosecutors, or witnesses and makes special requirements that Trump not attack Smith specifically. The gag order does permit Trump to state that he believes he is being unfairly treated by the Justice Department and does not prevent him from making statements about the court at large or the Washington, D.C. area in which the trila is being held.
In a seperate case in New York, Trump has already been fined $10,000 for violating a gag order that required he not speak ill about members of the court. Trump made disparaging comments on Truth Social about the clerk of the court which led to the fine.