Updated Aug 11, 2023, 2:06pm EDT
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Trump’s right to free speech is ‘not absolute’ in Jan. 6 case, judge says

REUTERS/Reba Saldanha

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The News

A federal judge sided with Donald Trump’s defense on issuing a protective order in the 2020 election interference case that would allow the former president to access and discuss non-sensitive evidence, but not give him an “absolute” right to free speech.

Special Counsel Jack Smith had requested an order that would prevent the “improper dissemination or use” of all evidence given to Trump’s defense ahead of the trial. However, in a hearing Friday, U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan declined to adopt it, and instead ruled to prevent only “sensitive” information from being disseminated, as Trump’s lawyers had wanted.

However, she said that Trump is still bound by release conditions and that his free speech is “not absolute” as the case proceeds, meaning the former president is still prohibited from witness intimidation.

“The fact that he is running a political campaign currently has to yield to the administration of justice,” Chutkan said. “And if that means he can’t say exactly what he wants to say in a political speech, that is just how its going to have to be.”

We’ve curated analysis and reporting on how the order might (or might not) impact Trump’s ability to speak freely about the case as he campaigns for the 2024 Republican nomination.

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  • A protective order is distinct from a gag order, and Trump can still freely talk about the case no matter the shape of the order, said The Messenger’s legal correspondent Adam Klasfeld. A similar protective order in the New York hush money case has not stopped Trump from freely commenting on it, including “attacking” Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, Klasfeld said.
  • Trump’s free speech limits will be tested when it comes to witness tampering, said The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake. Going by his past remarks about would-be witnesses against him, Trump has shown an “affinity for exploiting the haziness these standards,” Blake wrote.— The Washington Post