Trump gambles on a 'free speech' defense strategy

With his legal challenges mounting, the former president is betting big on the First Amendment

Protesters outside DC courthouse for Trump arraignment
Protesters outside DC courthouse for Trump arraignment
(Image credit: Photo by Roberto Schmidt / Getty Images)

If Donald Trump is anything, he is a man comfortable speaking aloud any and every thought that crosses his mind — whether or not it's in his best interest. He peppers his speeches with extended ad-libbed asides and non-sequitur riffs, often to the delight of his adoring audiences; his social media is rife with ruminations on everything from Hollywood romances to matters of national security; and now, facing perhaps the most significant criminal peril of his personal and professional life, Trump is betting that the very loquaciousness which contributed to his historic slate of criminal indictments may also be a winning legal strategy to keep him out of prison, and back into the White House.

This week, attorneys representing the former president against charges stemming from his alleged 2020 election interference argued that a request from prosecutors to limit the amount of evidence Trump could access and publicly disclose was a violation of his right to free speech. The request, made by Special Counsel Jack Smith's team, came after Trump posted "IF YOU GO AFTER ME, I'M COMING AFTER YOU!" on his Truth Social platform — a message prosecutors claimed was a sign that Trump was planning to "litigate this case in the media." Not so, claimed Trump's attorneys, who wrote that "the government seeks to restrict First Amendment rights" by asking to limit what evidence presented during the trial's discovery phase can be accessed and made public by Trump beyond "only genuinely sensitive materials."

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