Mark Meadows, White House chief of staff, listens as President Donald Trump, left, speaks to members of the media before boarding Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, D.C., July 29, 2020.
Sarah Silbiger | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Special counsel Jack Smith asked a federal judge to reimpose a gag order on former President Donald Trump in his election interference case in Washington, D.C., accusing him of trying to intimidate witnesses — including his former chief of staff Mark Meadows.
Trump has “capitalized” on the temporary suspension of his partial gag order to “send an unmistakable and threatening message to a foreseeable witness in this case,” Smith wrote in a filing Wednesday night in U.S. District Court in Washington.
Smith pointed to Trump’s statements in response to ABC News’ report that Meadows, the final chief of staff of Trump’s presidency, has been granted immunity to testify to the special counsel’s prosecutors.
Meadows reportedly told Smith’s team that he told Trump repeatedly after his 2020 election loss to President Joe Biden that Trump’s claims about widespread voter fraud were baseless. Smith’s four-count indictment accuses Trump of illegally conspiring to overturn that loss. Trump has pleaded not guilty.
In a Truth Social post late Tuesday, Trump suggested that Smith had coerced Meadows into maligning him.
“Some people would make that deal, but they are weaklings and cowards, and so bad for the future our Failing Nation. I don’t think that Mark Meadows is one of them, but who really knows?” wrote Trump.
Mark Meadows, former White House chief of staff during the Trump administration, speaks during a forum titled House Rules and Process Changes for the 118th Congress at FreedomWorks headquarters in Washington, D.C., Nov. 14, 2022.
Drew Angerer | Getty Images
Judge Tanya Chutkan imposed the original gag order Oct. 17, after finding that Trump’s many bellicose statements about the case posed “grave threats to the integrity of these proceedings.”
The gag order bars Trump and other parties in the case from making public statements targeting potential witnesses, as well as Smith, the defense counsel, members of the court or any of their staffers.
But she put it on hold last week while she considered Trump’s request for a stay of the order, pending his appeal of the restrictions on his speech.
If Trump had still been subject to the gag order, he would have been prohibited from directly targeting Meadows, like he did in the Tuesday post.
Trump claims that he is being “silenced” by Chutkan’s order. The claim is part of his broader conspiracy theory that his numerous indictments are part of an effort by the Biden administration to undermine his 2024 presidential campaign.
“The defendant has not remotely been ‘silenced,'” Smith wrote in Wednesday’s filing. “The only thing he cannot do is target certain individuals connected to the case.”
Smith urged the judge to lift the pause on her gag order, and to reject Trump’s bid for a broader stay pending appeal.
“Unless the Court lifts the administrative stay, the defendant will not stop his harmful and prejudicial attacks,” Smith wrote.
The special counsel also asked the judge to modify Trump’s conditions of release to prevent him from sending even indirect messages to witnesses.
“To the extent that the defendant’s public message — directed to the Chief of Staff, with knowledge that it would reach him — is not already covered by his release conditions, it is an intentional end-run around them,” he argued.
“Accordingly, the Court should modify the defendant’s conditions of release by making compliance with the Order a condition or by clarifying that the existing condition barring communication with witnesses about the facts of the case includes indirect messages to witnesses made publicly on social media or in speeches,” he added.
Doing so would give Chutkan the proper judicial tools to enforce compliance or enact penalties for violating the order, wrote Smith. “Otherwise, without the Court’s intervention, the defendant will continue to threaten the integrity of these proceedings and put trial participants at risk.”
Trump faces another gag order in a separate civil case in New York, in which he and his company are accused of falsely inflating the values of his real estate properties and other assets for financial benefits.
Trump has twice violated that gag order, which only forbids him from making public statements about the judge’s staff, since it was imposed in early October.
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