A federal judge on Monday imposed a gag order against former President Donald Trump in the court case concerning charges that he tried to illegally subvert the 2020 presidential election, citing in part Trump’s inflammatory comments against former Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley.
The order raises the possibility of fines or possible jail time for the former commander-in-chief if he continues to use political rallies to attack potential witnesses in the upcoming federal trial. That list includes Milley, a frequent target of Trump over the last few years.
The Associated Press reported that U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan did not specify exactly what repercussions any single action might incur, but said the move was necessary to preserve the integrity of the criminal proceedings.
“We’re not talking about censorship here,” she said during court deliberations on Monday. “We’re talking about restrictions to ensure there is a fair administration of justice in this case.”
The move came after special counsel Jack Smith’s team raised concerns about Trump disparaging prosecutors, Chutkan, the court system and prospective witnesses in the case.
Trump’s defense team told the Associated Press that the gag order amounted to a “desperate effort at censorship” against the leading Republican Party candidate for president in 2024. Trump himself took to social media ahead of the hearing to call Smith “deranged” and Chutkan “highly partisan.”
Trump is charged with spreading “pervasive and destabilizing lies about election fraud” following his loss in the 2020 election. The case is separate from other criminal charges he faces in Georgia, New York and Florida.
During campaign rallies, Trump has attacked the cases against him as politically motivated and baseless. He has also sharply criticized numerous former members of his own administration, calling them liars and frauds.
In the case of Milley — Trump’s own choice to serve as Joint Chiefs Chairman — the former president on Sept. 22 posted on social media that the Army general may have committed treason by talking to Chinese military officials about the election process in the wake of Trump’s election defeat.
“This is an act so egregious that, in times gone by, the punishment would have been DEATH! A war between China and the United States could have been the result of this treasonous act,” Trump wrote.
Milley has maintained the communication was designed to calm overseas fears about a chaotic transition of power in America. He also said in the weeks following the tweet that he was forced to employ new personal security to ensure the safety of his family.
In his departure speech from the chairman post on Sept. 30, Milley referenced Trump by reminding assembled troops that “we don’t take an oath to a wannabe dictator” and to continue to defend America’s democratic institutions.
The social media post about Milley played a focal role in Monday’s deliberations, as did similar disparaging public comments made by Trump against Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, former Attorney General William Barr, and former Vice President Mike Pence.
The limits of the new gag order will be tested soon. Trump is scheduled to hold several political rallies in Iowa later this week.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.