Trump’s lawyer goes to battle with government over his ability to call January 6 trial witness a ‘slimy liar’: Fireworks in federal court over ex-president’s gag order

Judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals asked a series of probing questions about a federal judge’s “gag” order that would prevent him from “attacking” potential witnesses in the Jan. 6 case.

The justices set aside Judge Tanya Chutkan’s order banning Trump from targeting court staff and witnesses following his repeated attacks on special counsel Jack Smith. But they also acknowledged the difficulty of managing the case and wondered whether the former president could use social media to actually tell a witness “don’t act treacherously – don’t cooperate” as a form of intimidation.

Trump’s attorney repeatedly raised concerns that the order would infringe on the former president’s First Amendment rights, and members of the three-judge panel considering it have expressed some of their own doubts, while asking questions about who might pursue the former president. and under what circumstances.

‘Is Slimy Liar Seditious’? asked Judge Patricia Millet.

A federal appeals court is considering a silence order a district judge imposed on former President Donald Trump, preventing him from targeting potential witnesses or court personnel in his Jan. 6 case

She asked a series of hypothetical questions to Cecil VanDevender, who argued on behalf of prosecutors.

“I understand that he has not participated in debates so far,” said Millet, who then offered a hypothetical proposal in which Trump would appear on stage, and political rivals would go after him over his repeated prosecutions (Trump faces 91 charges in four criminal charges).

She asked why Trump couldn’t respond by telling them it was all a “political vendetta” by prosecutors who were “following Joe Biden’s orders,” noting that “I’m not saying everything here is true” in the hypothetical.

“He can’t stand on stage and say that?” the judge wanted to know.

“He needs to see Mrs. Manners while everyone else is throwing targets at him.”

She also asked what things Trump could and could not say, and whether this was unauthorized targeting versus permitted expressions and protests of his innocence.

“Is slimy liar seditious?” she wanted to know.

Trump has repeatedly called Jack Smith

Trump has repeatedly called Jack Smith “deranged.” But could he call him a “slimy liar” under the terms of a gag order?

Judge Tanya Chutkan imposed the order.  The court must weigh issues of freedom of expression and due process

Judge Tanya Chutkan imposed the order. The court must weigh issues of freedom of expression and due process

The judges showed a strong interest in balancing the suspect’s freedom of expression with the government’s interest in maintaining a fair trial, where witnesses come forward to tell the truth and court staff are not exposed to threats or intimidation.

The Justice Department cited a series of inflammatory statements made by Trump, both in recent months and during a period surrounding his 2020 election efforts.

‘I don’t hear you giving any weight to the interests of a fair trial. Am I right that you don’t?’ Judge Cornelia Pillard asked Trump lawyer D. John Sauer.

The government admitted that special counsel Jack Smith, whom Trump regularly calls “deranged,” is a special case, both as a prominent government representative and as a member of the judicial staff.

But that raised a question, posed by justices, as to whether Trump would be free to attack lower-level “line prosecutors” in the case.

The case is more than academic, after Trump faced another silence order in his New York fraud case after going after Judge Arthur Engoron’s law clerk.

In her debate scenario (still hypothetical because Trump has sidelined them while his Republican rivals mostly fire him and attack each other) it bordered on absurdity when Judge Millet asked questions about whether Trump could simply curse in general instead of calling someone a to be called a liar.

“But he can’t say they’re lying?” she asked.

VanDevender said he would be free to avoid a direct attack, and would instead say “what he said was not true and here’s why.”

She then asked if Trump could say someone was a “truth-teller”?

All three judges were appointed by Barack Obama or Joe Biden, although the case could be appealed to the Supreme Court if it goes against Trump.