Donald Trump’s frequent social media attacks on judges and prosecutors have come up already in court proceedings, but he’s not likely to face accountability for any individual post.
Instead, the whole wave of posts that the former president spews forth could be used against him.
The former president’s status as the Republican frontrunner grants him more leeway than most defendants to publicly threaten the prosecution or courts – but judges have a responsibility to protect witnesses and preserve the integrity of trial proceedings that may eventually conflict with Trump’s right to free speech, reported Salon.
“Threats aimed at intimidating judges, prosecutors and witnesses, reduce the fairness and accuracy of the proceedings,” said Hofstra University constitutional law professor James Sample. “Preserving and protecting due process – a fair trial – is the most fundamental responsibility of a judge.”
Trump has been warned his trial date in the federal Jan. 6 case could be moved up from its current start date of March 4 if his statements potentially compromised the jury pool, but all of his social media attacks pose risks to the cases against him.
“Trump’s statements that portray his criminal cases as political plots to interfere with the 2024 election risk tainting the jury pool,” said former U.S. Attorney Barb McQuade, a University of Michigan law professor and MSNBC legal analyst. “We have seen through his false claims of a stolen election his power to mislead members of the public. Just one juror who buys into Trump’s claims can nullify the law and hang the jury, resulting in a mistrial.”
Trump may face some type of sanctions or another form of accountability for his comments, but legal experts say one individual statement won’t likely land him in hot water.
“If Trump is going to face accountability for past comments, it will be based on the totality of comments occurring on a daily basis in the media,” said Nina Marino, a partner with the white-collar criminal defense firm Kaplan Marino. “In terms of impact on the cases against him, the courts will need to weigh his First Amendment right to free speech against the danger of contaminating the jury pool and witness intimidation. Witness intimidation could be demonstrated if potential witnesses were to report that his comments put them in fear.”