Federal prosecutors said in a Friday night filing that former president Donald Trump may have broken the law if he bought a handgun at a recent campaign stop in South Carolina.
“The defendant either purchased a gun in violation of the law and his conditions of release, or seeks to benefit from his supporters’ mistaken belief that he did so,” the court filing argues. “It would be a separate federal crime, and thus a violation of the defendant’s conditions of release, for him to purchase a gun while this felony indictment is pending.”
The prosecutors were referring to social media posts by the Trump campaign earlier this week, when a staffer posted a video of Trump — who is the Republican frontrunner for the 2024 presidential nomination— at the Palmetto State Armory, a gun store in Summerville, S.C.
The video “showed the defendant holding a Glock pistol with the defendant’s likeness etched into it. The defendant stated, ‘I’ve got to buy one,’ and posed for pictures,” the prosecutors’ filing states, noting that the staffer posted the video with a caption that said: “President Trump purchases a @GLOCKInc in South Carolina!”
The campaign staffer later deleted the post and retracted the claim, saying Trump did not purchase or take possession of the gun. The latter claim, prosecutors note in their filing, is “directly contradicted by the video showing the defendant possessing the pistol.”
Only further confusing the issue, Trump reposted a video of the interaction made by someone else, which had the caption: “MY PRESIDENT Trump just bought a Golden Glock before his rally in South Carolina after being arrested 4 TIMES in a year.”
The prosecutors raised the South Carolina incident in arguing that the judge in D.C. overseeing Trump’s pending federal charges of obstructing the 2020 election results should impose a gag order on the former president because of public statements he has made attacking prosecutors, the judge and potential witnesses. Those statements, prosecutors argue, could intimidate jurors or bias the pool of prospective jurors.
“The defendant should not be permitted to obtain the benefits of his incendiary public statements and then avoid accountability by having others — whose messages he knows will receive markedly less attention than his own — feign retraction,” the prosecutors wrote.
The judge overseeing the case, Tanya S. Chutkan, has scheduled an Oct. 16 hearing for lawyers to debate the request for a limited gag order to stop Trump from spreading prejudicial pretrial publicity.
Prosecutors argued in court filings that just as Trump knowingly spouted lies that the 2020 election had been stolen in the hopes of undoing those results, the former president now is attempting to undermine confidence in the judicial system by pumping out near-daily “disparaging and inflammatory attacks” about potential jurors, witnesses, prosecutors and the judge.
Prosecutors Molly Gaston and Thomas Windom cited the arrest of a Texas woman charged with making death threats against Chutkan; the lodging of “multiple threats” against special counsel Jack Smith; and “intimidating communications” directed at Justice Department official Jay Bratt.
Trump’s attorneys have fired back that a gag order against a leading candidate for president would be a violation of his rights, accusing prosecutors of trying to strip the former president “of his First Amendment freedoms during the most important months of his campaign against President Biden.”
They said that Trump has never called for any improper or unlawful action, nor intimidated or incited anyone to cause actual harm, based on the courts’ legal definition of inciting imminent lawless action and the number of the government’s witnesses.
In Friday’s filing, prosecutors listed a fresh spate of what they considered alarming Trump statements since their gag order request was made Sept. 5, after which Trump called Smith “a deranged person” who “wants to take away my rights under the First Amendment.”
Trump has attacked multiple witnesses identified in his indictment, saying for example that he had seen his vice president, Mike Pence, “make up stories about me, which are absolutely false”; claiming that his former attorney general William P. Barr didn’t do his job because he was afraid of being impeached; and suggesting that in times past his former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, would have been executed for treason.
Trump also falsely claimed that another witness named in his indictment, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, knew about and covered up tens of thousands of fraudulent votes in Georgia, and recently said that Trump “didn’t do anything wrong,” prosecutors said.