Special Counsel Jack Smith’s persecution by prosecution of former President Donald Trump just got a trial start date, with the federal judge presiding over it ordering it to begin on March 4, 2024, right when the primaries are going full swing and when Trump will be needing to focus on his political campaigns.
That decision came after an argument between Trump’s lawyers and Smith’s legal team, which wanted to bring Trump to trial by January 2nd of 2024. Trump’s lawyers, on the other hand, wanted to wait until April of 2026 because of the amount of material that they need to review before the trial.
The update to the case brought it back to the public eye and so also brought a number of legal experts to the former president’s defense. For example, In an interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity, Georgetown Law School professor Jonathan Turley described the indictment as an assault on free speech.
“This is a free speech-killing indictment. There’s no way around it. I write a great deal in academia in the free-speech area, and I have rarely seen a more chilling filing by the Department of Justice,” Professor Turley told Sean Hannity.
Continuing, Turley noted that the true goal of this indictment seems to be criminalizing “disinformation,” which is just another type of speech. Turley said, “The question that people have to ask themselves is, when is the price too high? People are enraged, but what is the price too high to bag Donald Trump? This indictment is a prohibitive cost. Meaning what they are attempting to do is criminalize what they consider to be disinformation.”
Then, explaining why that is so important, Turley noted that it is an attack on political speech, saying, “This is a speaking indictment but it doesn’t say very much. It just says that we think Trump is lying and that he didn’t believe this. I can’t tell you how faciously ridiculous this claim is. It starts by saying, of course, you can say false things in the campaign, but then says that Trump knew they were false. Is that the test going forward in terms of criminalizing political speech?”
And, to do that, Turley said, Smith would have to bulldoze the First Amendment. He said, “Smith is just not only going to have to just bulldoze through the First Amendment, he’s going to have to bulldoze through a line of cases by the Supreme Court.”
Joining Trump’s public relations defense squad was Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz. He told Fox Business Network host and former Trump administration economic adviser Larry Kudlow that Jack Smith is leaving himself open to prosecution with his conduct thus far.
Dershowitz, explaining that, said, “You know the worst thing about this indictment, under the terms of this indictment, Jack Smith can be indicted. Let me explain to you why. The statute says the following, two or more persons conspire to injure and deny somebody the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured him by the constitution.”
Continuing, Dershowitz added, “What if a court ultimately ruled that Donald Trump had a right under the First Amendment to make his Jan. 6 speech and to do what he did? Then Jack Smith will have conspired to deny him of that right. That’s how serious this is. Jack Smith … deliberately, willfully and maliciously leaves out the words that President Trump spoke on Jan. 6 in his terrible speech, which I disagree with, but what he said was, ‘I want you to assemble peacefully and patriotically.’”
He added, “Jack [Smith] leaves that out. That is a lie, a lie, an omission lie, and if you’re going to indict somebody for telling lies, don’t tell lies in the indictment. If you’re going to indict somebody for denying people their constitutional rights, don’t deny them their constitutional rights by indicting them for free speech. That’s how hypocritical this is.”
And, describing why the disinformation attack is so absurd from a constitutional point of view, he said, “The Supreme Court has said in an opinion by Chief Justice [William] Rehnquist … under the First Amendment there is no such thing as a false opinion or a false idea. The response to a false idea is the marketplace of ideas or Election Day.”
Emphasizing the danger to our rights posed by the indictment, he then said, “So you’re right, this is a very, very dangerous indictment, dangerous to the First Amendment and also dangerous to the Sixth Amendment because it directly goes after Trump’s lawyers, names them as unindicted coconspirators without giving their names, but says they’re criminals for giving him advice on how to challenge the election.”
Jack Smith image credit: By United States Department of Justice – This file has been extracted from another file, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=132849708
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