Special counsel Jack Smith is on a mission to legally silence the Republican presidential front-runner — and constitutional law scholar Jonathan Turley is sounding the alarm.
As you may have heard, Smith wants former President Donald Trump, the leading GOP candidate in the 2024 race, to stop talking about the indictments the special counsel’s office has filed against him.
And talk about Smith Trump has; consider this recent monologue in which the candidate ripped into “deranged Jack Smith” for seeking the gag order:
President Trump hits “deranged” Jack Smith’s request for gag order pic.twitter.com/xBxavjvNId
— RSBN 🇺🇸 (@RSBNetwork) September 16, 2023
Smith insisted in a Friday court filing that the gag order would be “narrowly tailored” and designed to stop Trump from making what Smith called “disparaging and inflammatory attacks on the citizens of this District, the Court, prosecutors, and prospective witnesses.”
It’s not just Trump he wants silenced, either; in the filing, he said, “A supplemental order that extends some of the prohibitions that apply to defense counsel to the defendant himself is particularly warranted.”
“Shortly after the indictment in this case was unsealed,” the filing said, “unsealed, the defendant’s lead counsel began a series of lengthy and detailed interviews in which he potentially tainted the jury pool by disseminating information and opinions about the case and a potential witness and described in detail legal defenses that he plans to mount, including defenses that may never be raised in court or that may be rejected by the Court before ever reaching the jury.”
Smith wants Trump’s attorneys gagged, too pic.twitter.com/H89ObsnOU1
— Julie Kelly 🇺🇸 (@julie_kelly2) September 15, 2023
In a column published on his personal blog and in the New York Post, Turley — a professor at George Washington University who has testified before Congress on constitutional issues, including during Trump’s impeachment hearings — said there was a new addition to former President Ronald Regan’s “nine most terrifying words in the English language.” (“I’m from the Government, and I’m here to help.”)
“After Friday night, we can add nine more: ‘a narrowly tailored order that imposes modest, permissible restrictions,'” he wrote.
In the column, Turley called the prospective gag order “anything but ‘narrowly tailored'” and said that “short of a mobile ‘Get Smart’ Cone of Silence, it is chilling to think of what Smith considered the broader option.”
For those of you unfamiliar with the adventures of Maxwell Smart’s Agent 86, here’s what Turley was referencing:
As he noted, Smith said Trump’s comments on the 2020 election and its aftermath were “disinformation” and that since this was the subject of one of the indictments, Trump’s “recent extrajudicial statements are intended to undermine public confidence in an institution — the judicial system — and to undermine confidence in and intimidate individuals — the Court, the jury pool, witnesses, and prosecutors.”
Thus, Smith wants to stop the former president from talking about anything “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.”
Turley said this amounted to gagging the political opposition.
“I have long criticized Trump’s inflammatory comments over these cases, but Smith’s solution veers dangerously into core political speech in the middle of a presidential election,” he wrote.
“Ironically, Smith’s move will likely be seen as reinforcing Trump’s claim of intentional election interference by the Biden Administration,” Turley said.
“I do not view it that way, but I do believe Smith is showing his signature lack of restraint in high-profile cases, a tendency that led to the unanimous overturning of his conviction of former Virginia Republican Gov. Robert McDonnell,” he added.
In that case, Smith prosecuted McDonnell and his wife in 2014 for “participating in a scheme to violate federal public corruption laws.” While they got a guilty verdict before a jury, it was vacated unanimously by the Supreme Court in 2016.
In his ruling, Chief Justice John Roberts said that while there is “no doubt that this case is distasteful,” the problems lay “with the broader legal implications of the Government’s boundless interpretation of the federal bribery statute.”
This case has even broader political implications, especially considering what Smith is prosecuting is part of the presidential campaign this cycle.
It’s also undermining trust in federal law enforcement, Turley noted, since polls have shown that while a majority of Americans view the prosecutions from the special counsel’s office as “serious,” 62 percent still believe they’re “politically motivated.”
“One of the top issues in this presidential campaign is Trump’s insistence that the Justice Department and the criminal justice system have been weaponized by Democrats,” Turley wrote. “He was running on that issue even before the four separate criminal cases were filed against him in Florida, Georgia, New York, and Washington, D.C.”
“Under Smith’s proposed motion, almost everyone (including Biden) will be able to discuss this case but Trump himself,” he said.
Furthermore, Turley noted that the “courts have elected to daisy-chain trials before the election.”
“The timing guaranteed the maximum level of coverage and commentary,” he said. “At this point, a broad gag order is like running for a hand pump on the Titanic.”
Turley, of course, seems to be giving Smith the benefit of the doubt — that there really was a chance this was meant to be “narrowly tailored.”
The concept, instead, seems to be laughably transparent on its face.
This is the first time a major-party presidential front-runner has been indicted during the campaign — and he was indicted by a special counsel appointed by the same administration he’s running against.
This isn’t even mentioning the fact that the charges on which Smith is seeking the gag order are political by their very nature.
By requesting this “narrowly tailored” motion, Smith is merely confirming America’s fears: Yes, these charges are serious, but they’re being handled in the most cynically political way possible.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.
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