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“Trump Battles Smith Over Sweeping Gag Order for Jan 6 Case

On Thursday, lawyers from the Department of Justice asked a judge to reject a request from Jack Smith, a suspect in the January 6 Capitol attack, for a narrow gag order. Smith’s counsel had requested the order to avoid having their client’s case discussed in the press. However, in a filing with the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, the DOJ argued that the request was too broad and could potentially infringe on the First Amendment rights of the media. The DOJ also suggested that Smith seek relief through other judicial avenues. They asserted that even if their request were accepted, the court could not force the media to exercise “self-restraint” or impose sanctions for violations of the order. Attorney General William Barr was quick to react, calling Smith’s request for a gag order an “unprecedented effort to trample our constitutional guarantees of freedom of the press.” Barr drew an analogy to the civil rights movement, noting that freedom of the press was crucial to the national debate over civil rights. The DOJ’s filing argued that there is nothing unusual about a criminal defendant attempting to limit press coverage of their case. However, they argued that Smith’s proposed order was too broad in scope and violated the First Amendment. The DOJ argued that Smith had failed to demonstrate a “compelling interest” in suppressing media coverage of his case, and that the proposed order was significantly broader than past judicial rulings on similar issues. They noted that, in the interest of public safety and security, press coverage often serves a valid purpose. Smith and his counsel have yet to comment on the DOJ’s filing. However, the filing is a reminder of the ongoing legal issues surrounding the January 6 attack. With the case soon to move into the discovery phase, press coverage could become even more substantial. It remains to be seen whether Smith’s lawyers will pursue additional legal action in the coming days.