Florida leads 22 states in legal brief opposing gag order on Trump

by | Jun 17, 2024

Florida and 22 other states filed a legal brief opposing special counsel Jack Smith’s motion to obtain a gag order on former President Donald Trump, arguing it would violate his First Amendment rights and lacks clear guidelines.

Florida, alongside 22 other states, filed a legal brief on Monday contending the legality of special counsel Jack Smith’s motion to obtain a gag order on former President Donald Trump.

The brief, submitted to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, opposes the motion to modify Trump’s release conditions, which would limit his ability to comment on his prosecution. Trump is facing charges related to the handling of classified documents, and the special prosecutor has asked the court to enforce a gag order, arguing that Trump’s public comments could endanger law enforcement officials and compromise the judicial process.

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, leading the lawsuit, asserts that such a gag order would violate Trump’s First Amendment rights.

“Political speech is the primary object of First Amendment protection and the lifeblood of a self-governing people’…Yet special prosecutor Jack Smith, on behalf of the United States, asks this Court to curtail that right by ordering a prior restraint on President Trump’s constitutionally protected speech,” the brief reads. “Such an order is presumptively unconstitutional…If granted, this request would prevent the presumptive Republican nominee for President of the United States from speaking out against ‘the prosecution and the criminal trial process that seek to take away his liberty.”

The brief outlines the special prosecutor’s request as vague and overly broad, lacking clear guidelines on what statements would be prohibited. This ambiguity, it argues, could lead to excessive self-censorship by Trump, infringing on his right to political speech.

The brief cites several Supreme Court cases, including Nebraska Press Association v. Stuart, to argue that the special prosecutor has not met the burden required to justify such a restraint, claiming that there is insufficient evidence that Trump’s comments pose a real threat to law enforcement or the judicial process.

“[T]hough the government repeatedly invokes the ‘integrity of the proceedings,’ it never explains with any specificity how Trump’s comments have endangered the judicial process itself,” the plaintiffs argue. “For example, the special prosecutor never offers proof that the Court will be unable to sit a fair jury because of any comments from President Trump…Nor does the special prosecutor allege (let alone prove) that any comments will sway witnesses or otherwise color the evidence.”

The amici states further argue that silencing Trump would set a dangerous precedent, potentially “allowing political opponents to stifle debate” and “harm the democratic process,” noting that voters “have a right” to hear from all candidates on important issues, including those involving the prosecution of a political figure.

In late May, attorneys for Smith requested that the judge presiding over the case clarify that former Trump should not make statements that could pose a significant, imminent, and foreseeable danger to law enforcement agents involved in his investigation and prosecution, as reported by CNN.

The outlet additionally reported that prosecutors expressed concern about Trump’s claims that FBI agents were prepared to shoot him and that he “nearly escaped death” during the 2022 search of his Mar-a-Lago estate. Prosecutors have pointed out that Trump was actually in New York at the time of the search, classifying his statements as false and inflammatory, based on a misrepresentation of the FBI’s search plan, which had been disclosed to his defense team.

It was also reported that Trump repeatedly and misleadingly criticized the FBI’s policy on the use of deadly force, which they stated is a standard procedure applied to numerous warrants. Both the FBI and Attorney General Merrick Garland have confirmed that this policy is routine and was also implemented during the search of President Joe Biden’s Delaware residence in a similar investigation.


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