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Trump lashes out at bid for partial gag order in election case: ‘They want to silence me’

Former U.S. President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a South Dakota Republican party rally in Rapid City, South Dakota, U.S. September 8, 2023. 

Jonathan Ernst | Reuters

WASHINGTON — Donald Trump on Friday attacked special counsel Jack Smith as a “deranged” prosecutor after his office sought restrictions on what the former president can say about his federal election interference case.

“He’s a deranged person,” he said of Smith, who led two federal investigations into Trump that have yielded criminal indictments.

Trump, who is the leading Republican candidate for the party’s 2024 presidential nomination, claimed in a speech Friday night that Smith “wants to take away my rights under the First Amendment.”

He “wants to take away my right to speak freely and openly,” Trump said at the conference of a conservative Christian women’s organization in Washington, D.C.

Trump has previously attacked Smith in similar terms, but his latest broadside came hours after Smith asked U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan for a partial gag order in the D.C. election case.

Trump is charged with four criminal counts in that case, which alleges he perpetrated multiple conspiracies to overturn his loss to President Joe Biden in the 2020 election.

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Trump’s repeated attacks on the court, the prosecutors, prospective witnesses and the citizens of D.C. threaten to “undermine the integrity of these proceedings and prejudice the jury pool,” Smith wrote in a court filing.

The special counsel said he seeks “a narrow, well-defined restriction” on “certain prejudicial extrajudicial statements.”

Those would include statements about the “identity, testimony, or credibility of prospective witnesses,” as well as “statements about any party, witness, attorney, court personnel, or potential jurors that are disparaging and inflammatory, or intimidating,” Smith wrote.

“They want to silence me because I will never let them silence you,” Trump told the D.C. crowd.

Smith’s motion cites numerous social media posts from Trump’s Truth Social account railing against Chutkan, the prosecutors and the city of D.C. itself. The filing also accused Trump of spreading “knowingly false accusations of misconduct” against a prosecutor in the special counsel’s office who is working on Trump’s other federal criminal case in Florida.

Trump claimed that the prosecutor went to the White House for “improper reasons” before Trump was indicted in that case, which centers on his retention of classified national defense records after he was no longer president.

But “as the defendant well knows,” the prosecutor “conducted a routine investigative interview of a career military official at that official’s duty station — the White House,” Smith wrote, calling Trump’s claim otherwise “an attempt to prejudice the public and the venire in advance of trial.”

The judge has yet to rule on Smith’s request, which if enacted could restrict Trump from disparaging the special counsel himself.

The speech was the first of two that Trump was scheduled to make in D.C. on Friday night. He began speaking at the first event, a gathering of the Concerned Women for America Legislative Action Committee, about 40 minutes past his scheduled 7:15 p.m. ET start time, likely delaying his second appearance at the annual summit of the Family Research Council, another religious conservative group.

The trip marked Trump’s first time back in the nation’s capital since early last month, when he appeared at the E. Barrett Prettyman U.S. Courthouse to plead not guilty in the federal election case.

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