Trump vows to ‘take over’ Washington DC: ‘We are going to make it beautiful’
Donald Trump’s legal team was in federal court in Washington, DC this morning for oral arguments concerning the partial gag order imposed on the former president in his federal election interference case.
Mr Trump’s team argued that as he is running for president any restrictions on what he can say while he campaigns would violate his right to free speech. A panel of judges didn’t appear to buy that argument.
Meanwhile, the former president’s civil fraud trial in New York enters its eighth week. In that trial, Mr Trump’s attorneys won a pause on the gag order imposed on him there.
Over the weekend, Mr Trump visited the US-Mexico border in Texas, where Republican Governor Greg Abbott endorsed his 2024 White House run.
Mr Trump served food to members of the National Guard and others stationed at the border for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday before a rally of his supporters.
This came after a bizarre appearance in Iowa on Saturday where he resurfaced the claims about him taking “golden showers”.
Full story: Judges aren’t buying Trump’s gag order appeal
But the judges also appear likely to narrow the scope of the order, hoping to balance First Amendment protections and political speech against the wave of threats and harassment unleashed by Mr Trump and his supporters towards the prosecutors, judges, witnesses and prospective jurors involved with a growing list of litigation against him.
The gag order imposed by US District Judge Tanya Chutkan last month blocked Mr Trump from launching a “pretrial smear campaign” as he seeks the 2024 Republican nomination for president, the judge wrote.
That order was paused by the appeals court in Washington DC, which heard arguments in the case on Monday during a hearing that lasted nearly three hours.
Oliver O’Connell20 November 2023 17:54
Joe Biden pardons turkeys as president kicks off Thanksgiving celebrations
Oliver O’Connell20 November 2023 17:10
DC hearing wraps up with no ruling on future of partial gag order
The panel of judges in Washington, DC have concluded the hearing on the future of the partial gag order imposed on former president Donald Trump by Judge Tanya Chutkan.
They heard two hours and twenty minutes of arguments and will now consider their opinion.
Oliver O’Connell20 November 2023 17:00
Meanwhile, in Manhattan…
Day 32 and week eight of Donald Trump’s civil fraud trial is underway in the New York State Supreme Court in Lower Manhattan, with the defence’s sixth expert witness kicking off the day.
David Miller, who has worked in insurance for four decades, took the stand to argue that there was no insurance fraud because insurer Zurich did not examine Mr Trump’s financial statements and rubberstamped the insurance as a favour to broker Aon.
Oliver O’Connell20 November 2023 16:54
One of the judges emphasised that this is a challenging balance to make and that they have to use a delicate “scalpel” in this case to determine what Trump could or could not say.
VanDevender responds that District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan has already struck an appropriate balance.
In one potential scenario that the judges float, a Democratic nominee brings a Trump trial witness on stage at a campaign rally to talk about why Trump should not be re-elected — would the former president be prohibited from calling the witness “a liar”?
The special counsel’s attorney responds yes if it goes to the substance of their testimony.
A judge asks: “What if Trump calls a witness an ‘untruth speaker’… instead of ‘a liar’?”
Oliver O’Connell20 November 2023 16:43
The panel is extremely skeptical of Trump’s argument but they want to zero in on the scope of the order supported by Jack Smith’s team. How is the court supposed to differentiate between “adverse conduct” and just expressive views in our “social media world” that can’t be held responsible?
VanDevender goes down the list of “sheer number of occurrences” from Trump already.
A judge asks about proposed restrictions on “inflammatory language,” which doesn’t give “much balance at all to the First Amendment’s vigorous protection of political speech,” she says.
Alex Woodward20 November 2023 16:09
After touring a number of hypothetical situations in which the former president might intimidate a witness or juror, Sauer steps down with the judging panel promising him time for rebuttal later.
They are now hearing from Cecil VanDevender from the special counsel’s office.
He is asked why Trump’s comments create a “systemic risk” to the judicial system.
VanDevender replies: “It creates a world in which public servants will have to decide, ‘Do I want to handle this kind of case … or in doing so will I be threatened, my family be threatened?’ There’s a chilling effect and a pall cast on the whole proceedings … How likely are you to quit if your family received a death threat?”
Alex Woodward20 November 2023 15:58
The judges are extremely sceptical of Sauer’s arguments against preventative measures intended to protect witnesses and other parties in a trial, insisting that Trump’s speech because he’s running for office, is “core political speech” protected under the First Amendment.
Does he need to break the law first? What else needs to happen to stop him from undermining the integrity of a trial and the safety of anyone involved? Sauer equivocates.
Alex Woodward20 November 2023 15:20
Judge Bradley Garcia cuts to the heart of the issue with Trump’s statements: “This is predictably going to intensify. Why isn’t the district court justified taking a proactive measure … and stepping in to protect the integrity of the trial?”
Alex Woodward20 November 2023 15:04
DC gag order hearing underway
One of the appellate court judges is trying to get Trump’s attorney John Sauer to answer what kind of behaviour from his client would require a gag order.
The judge notes that Jack Smith’s team already found a pattern “whereby when the defendant has publicly attacked individuals … those people are threatened and harassed.”
Jack Smith’s team described that dynamic in a court filing as “part of a pattern, stretching back years, in which people publicly targeted” by Trump are “subject to harassment, threats, and intimidation.”
Trump “seeks to use this well-known dynamic to his advantage,” they added, and “it has continued unabated as this case and other unrelated cases involving the defendant have progressed.”
Sauer says that precedent for an order like this would require “imminently impending danger” or an “imminently impending threat.”
“We are nowhere near that in this case,” he says.
Alex Woodward20 November 2023 14:46