For the Democrats, it’s clearly personal.
On Thanksgiving, the Department of Justice filed a court document arguing for the retention of a gag order against the former president, emphasizing its necessity during the $250 million civil fraud trial in New York. Cecil Vandevender, an assistant special counsel for the Department of Justice, informed the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals about the document on November 23. This submission advocated for the reinstatement of a gag order against Trump in the New York civil proceedings, where the state Attorney General, Letitia James, has accused him of inflating property values in financial statements.
According to Newsweek, the court filings by the government specifically highlighted a section where an employee of the New York State Unified Court System detailed numerous threatening and harassing voicemail messages directed at Judge Arthur Engoron, overseeing the civil trial, and his law clerk Allison Greenfield. Trump had been fined twice in October for violating the gag order, initially for not promptly removing a Truth Social post targeting Greenfield from his website, and later for describing her as a “very partisan” individual.
The D.C. appeals court is deliberating on narrowing the scope of the gag order imposed by Judge Tanya Chutkan in the federal election case, preventing Trump from attacking prosecutors or potential witnesses. Trump and his legal team argue that any such gag order infringes on his First Amendment rights, with a judge temporarily pausing the New York gag order to consider constitutional arguments.
The D.C. appeals court had previously requested evidence from the DOJ regarding “ongoing threats and harassment” surrounding Trump to support the continuation of the federal gag order. Vandevender submitted the evidence cited in New York on Thanksgiving to reinforce the argument for maintaining Chutkan’s gag order.
According to an affidavit from Charles Hollon in the DOJ, there are 275 single-spaced pages of threatening messages and voicemails left for Judge Engoron and his staff since early October. The messages, described as “threatening, harassing, disparaging, and antisemitic,” were cited in the New York affidavit, with one threatening message stating, “Trust me when I say this. I will come for you.” Hollon argued that the influx of threatening messages justified the reinstatement of the gag order.
In response, Trump’s office, in a November 17 statement, criticized the gag order as an attempt to limit his speech during the 2024 presidential campaign. Trump, a leading candidate in the GOP presidential primary, denies any wrongdoing in the 2020 election interference and New York civil fraud cases, labeling them as politically motivated “witch hunts” aimed at hindering his 2024 election prospects. The statement called for the prompt reversal of the “unconstitutional” gag order in the D.C. case.