US special counsel asks judge to place gag order on Donald Trump

The prosecutor leading the federal election meddling case against Donald Trump has asked a judge to place him under a gag order, limiting how he is able to publicly comment on the case.

Special Counsel Jack Smith’s filing says the “narrowly tailored” order would prevent harassment of witnesses.

Mr Trump hit back online, accusing Smith’s team of misconduct, writing: “they won’t allow me to SPEAK?”

He has pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to overturn the 2020 election.

The request was unsealed by District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan and was filed a week earlier. It was among a slew of older court documents from the case that were released on Friday.

Prosecutors say their proposed order – which they never refer to as a “gag order” – is “a narrow, well defined restriction” that is necessary to prevent disinformation, threats and “prejudicing” the case.

If approved, it would ban Mr Trump from making statements “regarding the identity, testimony, or credibility of prospective witnesses” and “statements about any party, witness, attorney, court personnel, or potential jurors that are disparaging and inflammatory, or intimidating”.

It does not place any restrictions on Mr Trump from quoting from public record court documents or proclaiming his innocence.

Any restriction placed on the former president’s first amendment right to freedom of speech, particularly as he runs for president in 2024, would kick off a major constitutional challenge in court.

Last week, lawyers for Mr Trump wrote to Judge Chutkan, calling her biased against Mr Trump and asking her to step aside from the case.

It is unclear when she may issue a ruling on either motion.

On Truth Social, Mr Trump’s social media platform, he wrote on Friday: “So, I’m campaigning for President against an incompetent person who has WEAPONIZED the DOJ & FBI to go after his Political Opponent, & I am not allowed to COMMENT?

Shortly afterwards, speaking at a dinner for the group Concerned Women for America in Washington DC , he said prosecutors wanted to take away his right to speak freely and openly.

“These people are sick and they want to silence me because I will never let them silence you.

“But in the end they’re not after me, they’re after you, and I just happen to be standing in their way,” Mr Trump told the group of around 300 socially conservative evangelical Christian women.