Federal prosecutors are asking the judge overseeing a case targeting Donald Trump’s alleged efforts to subvert the outcome of the 2020 presidential election to help stop his wave of “inflammatory” attacks.
Following a grand jury’s indictment in the case, the former president has “repeatedly and widely disseminated public statements” attacking Washington DC residents as well as members of the court, prosecutors and prospective witnesses, according to a filing in US District Court on 15 September.
His statements threaten “to undermine the integrity of these proceedings and prejudice the jury pool,” prosecutors warned. Shortly after a request from US Department of Justice special counsel Jack Smith for the partial gag order, the former president lashed out on his Truth Social platform and called him “deranged”.
Prosecutors have asked US District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan to take “immediate” steps to ensure a fair trial and an impartial jury, including drafting a “narrowly tailored order” that restricts “certain prejudicial extrajudicial statements” from Mr Trump.
An unsparing assessment of Mr Trump’s remarks charts the former president’s ongoing and baseless narrative casting doubt on the integrity and veracity of US elections, his remarks targeting his perceived political opponents, including family members of the judges and prosecutors overseeing the criminal cases against him, and how his bullhorn dog-whistle statements are heard among his supporters who elevate those threats.
The former president’s rhetoric is often cited as an example of “stochastic terrorism,” in which an influential figure targets a person or group that sparks a captive audience to attack them while maintaining a degree of plausible deniability. Civil rights groups and current and former elected officials have repeatedly warned that unchecked calls for political violence from the man expected to receive a major political party’s nomination for president are an unprecedented tipping point.
“The defendant has an established practice of issuing inflammatory public statements targeted at individuals or institutions that present an obstacle or challenge to him,” including bogus statements surrounding US elections that have “engendered widespread mistrust in the administration of the election, and the individuals whom he targeted were subject to threats and harassment,” according to prosecutors.
Mr Trump knows that “when he publicly attacks individuals and institutions, he inspires others to perpetrate threats and harassment against his targets,” according to the filing, and that he continues those attacks “precisely because he knows that in doing so, he is able to roil the public and marshal and prompt his supporters.”
The filing includes several posts from Mr Trump’s Truth Social account, which the former president has used as a bully pulpit to his supporters to direct the narratives surrounding the criminal cases against him while casting himself as a victim of political prosecution.
Mr Trump has “posted publicly about individuals whom he has reason to believe will be witnesses in this trial,” and his “relentless public posts marshaling anger and mistrust in the justice system, the Court, and prosecutors have already influenced the public,” according to prosecutors.
The special counsel’s office has also faced “multiple threats,” according to the filing.
Within hours of the filing being made public, Mr Trump took to his social media account to level more insults at Mr Smith and repeat claims that the indictments against him are politically motivated.
He wrote: “Biden Prosecutor, Deranged Jack Smith, has asked the Court to limit 45th President, and leading Republican Nominee (by more than 50 points, & beating Dems!) DONALD J. TRUMP'S, PUBLIC STATEMENTS. So, I'm campaigning for President against an incompetent person who has WEAPONIZED the DOJ & FBI to go after his Political Opponent, & I am not allowed to COMMENT? They Leak, Lie, & Sue, & they won't allow me to SPEAK? How else would I explain that Jack Smith is DERANGED, or Crooked Joe is INCOMPETENT?”
Mr Trump’s lawyer John Lauro has also been accused of violating a local rule about making public statements about the case, which prohibit attorneys from releasing public extrajudicial statements regarding “the identity, testimony, or credibility of prospective witnesses” and the “merits of the case or the evidence in the case.”
In a separate filing on Friday, prosecutors have warned a judge that people connected to the case have faced “threats and harassment” fuelled by the former president’s “inflammatory public statements.”
Prosecutors asked the court to withhold the names and other identifying information of “certain individuals” targeted by Mr Trump with “inflammatory” statements, as well as excerpts from witness interview transcripts that describe the alleged threats and harassment they received, according to the filing.
“The government seeks to establish that Defendant has publicly criticized his perceived adversaries and is aware that this criticism has led to their harassment,” the judge wrote.
Friday’s filings mark the most direct responses from prosecutors yet in the face of the former president’s persistent efforts to undermine the criminal cases against him while revving up his base of support in his defence.
Earlier this week, Mr Trump filed a request for Judge Chutkan to recuse herself, a motion that Mr Smith’s office said had “no valid basis”.
A federal criminal indictment surrounding attempts from Mr Trump and his allies to illegally overturn 2020 election results is one of four criminal cases against him, including a separate Georgia case targeting Mr Trump and 18 co-defendants in an alleged criminal enterprise that sought to subvert that state’s election outcome.