In 48 hours, Trump launched a new broadside attacking the prosecutor, Trump’s first since the gag was imposed. On Sunday he took to his social network Truth Social to attack Smith in the exact terms the order had prohibited, calling him “deranged Jack Smith.”
The sequence illustrated the careful dance Trump had performed since Chutkan issued his order. He got he refrained from immediately and flagrantly violating the gag order while it was in effect, even as he criticized it and continued to attack the judges and make a series of other comments that, while not technical violations, most defense attorneys would advise against.
Trump was personally furious about the gag order, according to aides who spoke on condition of anonymity to recount private discussions. At the same time, advisers said, the Trump campaign sees political advantages in the gag order, similar to how the accusations helped propel Trump to a commanding lead in polls in the Republican primaries.
Trump’s campaign has been aggressively fundraising in the wake of the gag order. Although he declined to specify how much he raised, the Trump campaign sent made more than three dozen releases that mentioned the phrase in the last month.
“Anything that raises the temperature and becomes controversial is where online fundraising comes from,” said Brad Parscale, a former Trump campaign manager who now works in online fundraising. “It’s much easier to fish in a warm lake than a cold one. All these stories warm the lake.”
As Trump racked up criminal charges during the summer, his campaign message increasingly focused on fighting prosecutions which, according to him, are politicized. In doing so, Trump has worked to position himself alongside his supporters, and in a fundraising message last week he called the gag order against him “an attempt to gag the American people and cancel their vote.”
“We couldn’t word this better from a political standpoint,” one adviser said. “It’s best to be the victim who receives unfair treatment.”
In a statement, Trump campaign spokesman Steven Cheung said the former president “tells the truth and speaks truth to power.”
“You have every right to defend yourself against this illegal witch hunt by the Biden Justice Department and prosecutors who are weaponizing the judicial system in an unprecedented attempt to interfere in the 2024 election,” he said.
Trump gave two campaign speeches on the day the order was issued and appeared again Monday in New Hampshire without clearly violating the restrictions. Still, if the gag order is reimposed, Advisers hope Trump will break it. at some point, betting that the judges will not punish him with a prison sentence. “What are they really going to do to him?” said an ally.
The campaign’s confidence that the gag order will improve Trump’s political standing and its bet that Chutkan would never dare impose a severe penalty on a prominent Republican. President candidate – helps illustrate the difficult issues in the case as Chutkan weighs reinstating or even expanding his order.
“To safeguard the integrity of these proceedings, it is necessary to impose certain restrictions on public statements by interested parties,” Chutkan wrote in his order imposing the gag.
On Friday, Trump fined $5,000 for leaving a social media post on his campaign website disparaging a court employee in his ongoing civil fraud trial in New York, in violation of a gag order in that case. That order applies only to court personnel; It does not cover the judge or the state attorney general who brought the case, and Trump has continued to criticize them.
During a campaign rally in Concord, NH, on Monday, Trump repeated his claim, without evidence, that the allegations originated with president biden and threatened to retaliate if he returns to power.
“These people are dirty players and they go after their political opponents,” he said as he filled out his paperwork to appear on the nation’s first primary ballot in New Hampshire. “And now it’s a two-way street. It can also happen the other way around.”
“We have a judge who is out of control,” Trump said Monday during a campaign speech in Derry, NH, “and he is extremely afraid of Peekaboo James,” he added, using a derogatory nickname for the New York attorney general. Letitia James.
“I don’t mind being Nelson Mandela,” he said elsewhere in the speech, referring to the South African anti-apartheid leader who spent more than 27 years in prison, “because I do it for a reason.”
Trump has also come close to attacking Chutkan, who like Judge Arthur Engoron, she did not include herself in his gag order. “The judge doesn’t like me too much,” she said in Iowa last week. “He hasn’t liked me in her entire life.”
Trump has a long history of undermining the independence of the judiciary. In 2016, he suggested that the judge overseeing the class-action lawsuit against his for-profit Trump University was biased because of his mexican ancestry. In 2018, he attacked a ruling against a Trump administration asylum policy as coming from an “Obama judge,” leading to a rare reproach by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.
There has been some discussion among Trump allies about whether the super PAC or other surrogates could escalate attacks that Trump himself might be prohibited from carrying out. in case the order remains in effect as the campaign progresses.
But the order of Chutkan is limited. He specified that this does not prevent Trump from calling his prosecution political or criticizing President Biden or the Department of Justice, leaving Trump room to run in his daily and campaign rhetoric.
However, Trump’s Sunday post calling Smith “unhinged” clearly would have conflicted with Chutkan’s order if it had still been in effect.
“I can’t imagine any other criminal case in which a defendant would be allowed to call a prosecutor ‘deranged’ or a ‘thug,’ and I will not allow it here simply because the defendant is running a political campaign,” the judge said in the October 16 hearing when he initially imposed the gag order.
That post and others by Trump are likely to appear in future court filings from Smith’s team, which has been closely monitoring Trump’s incendiary comments to argue they could taint witnesses or jurors. Chutkan ordered Smith’s team to respond to Trump’s challenge to the gag order by Wednesday. Trump’s lawyers then have until Saturday to respond.
A spokesman for Smith declined to comment beyond court documents in the case.
In the same post, Trump also attacked a potential witness in Smith’s other case against Trump, who would not be covered by Chutkan’s gag order. Australian billionaire Anthony Pratt has testified before prosecutors and is listed as a possible witness in the case of Smith, who accuses Trump of mishandling classified documents after leaving the White House, a person familiar with the matter said. Trump allegedly told Pratt about the capabilities of American submarines. In response to a New York Times article Regarding Pratt this weekend, Trump called him “a red-headed weirdo.”
Another Trump post over the weekend pointed to a possible witness in the January 6th case: attorney Sidney Powell, who pleaded guilty in a separate case in Georgia, accusing her, Trump and 17 others of trying to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election in that state. The Washington Post has reported that Powell is one of six people named as unindicted accomplices in the case.
“EM. POWELL WAS NOT MY LAWYER, AND NEVER WAS,” Trump wrote of Powell, who participated in a press conference on behalf of Trump and his campaign and attended a meeting at the White House in December 2020 about the impeachment. of the election results. But he also appeared to praise her for fighting to overturn the 2020 presidential election.
“It helps us in the long run,” another aide said of the gag order, “but that doesn’t mean he’s not angry about it.”
Devlin Barrett contributed reporting.