Donald Trump is now under gag order in multiple trials. And as things tend to go in the legal system, those gag orders have been temporarily stayed upon appeal, only to be reinstated again. Today the appeals court issued another temporary stay on the gag order in Trump’s New York civil fraud trial. My response: who cares?
Something like witness tampering is a chargeable crime whether or not there’s a gag order in place at the time. To use Trump’s DC criminal case as an example, Trump attacked witness Mark Meadows while there wasn’t a gag order in place, and attacked witness Bill Barr while there was a gag order in place. There’s no difference. If Jack Smith thinks he can make witness intimidation charges stick, he’ll bring them in both instances.
So why is a gag order all that important? It’s not. A gag order isn’t of no consequence. But it’s aimed at drawing the line in specific enough fashion to keep a defendant from being able to wander into the gray areas. Witness tampering doesn’t magically become legal during the brief windows when a gag order is temporarily stayed on appeal.
Gag orders are something that the media has latched onto and falsely elevated into being some kind of be-all end-all thing that will decide whether or not Donald Trump magically gets away with it all. This allows the media to infuse additional drama and suspense, and a doomsday factor, into what are otherwise fairly mundane pretrial legal proceedings. But things just don’t work that way. Gag orders are a minor piece in all this.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report