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Trump sends "final" message before judge’s gag order ruling

Donald Trump sent his supporters a “final” message before Monday’s ruling by a federal judge on whether a gag order will be imposed on the former president.

In a fundraising email, Trump wrote, “Because I may be prohibited from speaking out against [President Joe Biden‘s] corruption as of later today, I want to say all I can right now in this final email to you before the hearing.”

At the end of Monday’s hearing, U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan said she would impose a “narrowly tailored” gag order against Trump, at the request of prosecutors, in the federal election interference case brought by special counsel Jack Smith. The prosecutors have cited the former president’s threatening comments about key players in the courtroom as a reason to restrict his speech regarding the case.

Gag orders are not uncommon with trial participants, but Trump’s status as the GOP front-runner in the 2024 presidential race, and his efforts to portray a gag order as being politically motivated, complicated the decision Chutkan had to make.

As Monday’s hearing played out in court, Trump reiterated his view of a possible gag order, sending an email blast to supporters that said, “Today really isn’t about gagging me…. It’s an attempt to gag the American people.”

He said that while Americans had long been “silenced by the Washington Swamp” and had their priorities cast aside by politicians on Capitol Hill, “that all changed on June 16, 2015 when I announced my candidacy as a political outsider.”

“I became a megaphone for the American people,” the email went on. “Suddenly, the Silent Majority was HEARD all across the world — and no matter how much the establishment wanted to turn me off, they couldn’t.”

The former president accused Washington’s elite of trying to shut him down by raiding his Florida home for government documents he had taken from the White House, as well as indicting and arresting him and publicizing his mug shot, among other actions. But he said that the Make America Great Again movement had “only gotten stronger” despite those efforts.

“Now, they’ve decided to try and FORCIBLY SILENCE me — and, by extension, our movement — by imposing a court-sanctioned gag order upon me,” he said.

Trump acknowledged that he was not attending Monday’s hearing, saying that he chose not to “dignify this attempt to STRIP ME of my First Amendment rights” and that he would be on the campaign trail in Iowa instead.

“Now, after years of being your voice, I am asking YOU to be a voice for America and prove that NOTHING can silence the greatest movement in American history,” he said. He also asked for contributions that would “prove” that his supporters would never give up the fight to “put America First.”

During the hearing, Trump’s lawyers argued that imposing a gag order would restrict his right to free speech as a presidential candidate, describing it as an “order of censorship.” But Chutkan pushed back, telling the attorneys that no one has “unfettered” First Amendment rights.

“Mr. Trump is a criminal defendant. He is facing four felony charges. He is under the supervision of the criminal justice system and he must follow his conditions of release,” Chutkan told Trump attorney John Lauro. “He does not have the right to say and do exactly what he pleases. Do you agree with that?”

“One hundred percent,” Lauro responded.

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