Campaign, court gag order collide with Trump attack on likely witness
The latest attack by President Donald Trump on the credibility of a likely witness in the upcoming impeachment trial is running up against a court gag order that limits what lawyers involved in a related criminal case can say publicly.
Trump this week tweeted an attack on former national security adviser John Bolton, who his allies suggest could be a “star witness” in the Senate trial. Bolton’s lawyer says the tweet was a clear violation of the court-imposed gag order in a criminal trial involving Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort.
Trump has argued that despite the gag order, he’s free to criticize anyone he chooses and that his tweet was protected by the First Amendment.
But legal experts say the tweet could be seen as a violation of the court’s order. The gag order was put in place to ensure that media coverage of the Manafort trial would not be influenced by the president or his allies.
The court’s gag order is one of several factors that could affect the impeachment trial, as Trump and his team make an aggressive attempt to discredit potential witnesses and defend against charges of abuse of power. Trump’s lawyers have maintained that the president did nothing wrong and have sought to paint witnesses such as Bolton as unreliable and partisan.
Experts say that while the tweet itself may not be in direct violation of the court order, there are still serious risks for the president. If the court finds that he deliberately intended to undermine a witness in a trial in which he is implicated, then it could lead to sanctions against him and lead to witnesses being called to testify in future trials.
And even if the tweet does not lead to direct legal action, it could still shape public opinion about the impeachment trial, and undermine the credibility of witnesses who may be seen as biased against the president.