Former DOJ official says Donald Trump’s rhetoric ahead of trials is ‘playing with fire’

A former Department of Justice official who served under the Bush administration called former President Donald Trump’s rhetoric ahead of criminal trials “risky business.” 

Special Counsel Jack Smith filed a gag order against Mr. Trump with U.S. District Court Judge S. Tanya Chutkan regarding charges that the ex-president schemed to overturn the 2020 election.

In all, Mr. Trump has been indicted four times and faces 91 criminal charges. 

Mr. Smith’s motion argued that the former president undermined the proceedings through “inflammatory attacks” against witnesses, prosecutors and Judge Chutkan. 

Mr. Trump took to Truth Social, the former president’s social media platform, to decry the motion. 

“So, I’m campaigning for President against an incompetent person who has WEAPONIZED the DOJ & FBI to go after his Political Opponent, & I am not allowed to COMMENT?,” Mr. Trump said. “They Leak, Lie, & Sue, & they won’t allow me to SPEAK?”

Tom Dupree, former principal deputy assistant attorney general under the Bush administration, told CNN that Mr. Trump’s intimidating comments may have worked in the political arena, but could have a different outcome now that the former president is facing a court appearance. 

“It’s a different world now that you’re in court,” Mr. Dupree said. “In other words, it’s one thing to make those comments in the context of a political campaign or the political fray, it’s another thing to make it when you are a criminal defendant and you are making comments about witnesses who are poised to testify against you.”

“He’s playing with fire, to some extent, in making these comments,” Mr. Dupree added. “Because I don’t think this is a judge who is going to stand for a lot of this stuff.”

Meanwhile, Mr. Trump’s legal team is working to get Judge Chutkan to recuse herself because of past comments and sentencing decisions for Jan. 6, 2021-related cases that she has overseen. Mr. Trump’s lawyers argued that Judge Chutkan’s own public statements would taint the proceedings.

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