Editor’s Note: Jill Filipovic is a journalist based in New York and author of the book “OK Boomer, Let’s Talk: How My Generation Got Left Behind.” Follow her on Twitter. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely her own. View more opinion on CNN.
On Monday, a federal judge imposed a gag order on Trump, limiting his ability to publicly attack special counsel Jack Smith, Smith’s staff, court personnel and potential witnesses in the case related to Trump’s alleged attempts to overturn the 2020 election. It’s not a muzzle of Trump’s ability to speak in general, but it is a demand that he not smear those involved in the case against him.
“This is not about whether I like the language Mr. Trump uses,” Judge Tanya Chutkan said. “This is about language that presents a danger to the administration of justice.”
Trump remains fully able to smear a long list of perceived opponents, including President Joe Biden and the Justice Department broadly. He is permitted to continue to claim, as he long has, that the prosecutions of him are politically motivated. (Trump has denied any wrongdoing.) With Chutkan’s order in place, he just can’t intimidate witnesses and attack counsel and court staff members — a prohibition that seems well within reason in the interests of a fair process.
Trump was predictably incensed.
“WILL APPEAL THE GAG ORDER RULING. WITCH HUNT!” he wrote on the social media platform Truth Social.
And on Monday in Iowa, he complained, “They put a gag order on me, and I’m not supposed to be talking about things that bad people do, and so we’ll be appealing very quickly.” He added, “I’ll be the only politician in history where I won’t be allowed to criticize people.”
This is, of course, untrue — Trump can criticize the vast majority of people, including Chutkan herself. He just can’t interfere with a criminal proceeding by using language that could result in the special counsel or his team being targeted by Trump’s supporters, which could taint a jury pool or intimidate witnesses in the case against him.