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Campaign, court gag order collide with Trump attack on likely witness


The clash between President Donald Trump’s campaign and a newly-imposed court gag order on former campaign adviser Roger Stone is now at the center of a brewing legal fight with the potential to impact the special counsel’s investigation of Russian meddling in the U.S. presidential election.

Stone’s lawyers asked a federal judge Monday to stop the Trump campaign from attacking the political operative who could become a witness against the president. The campaign had taken to Twitter to criticize Stone for his involvement in a foreign lobbying effort last year.

The request for a gag order sought to limit the campaign’s ability to comment on Stone and related matters, given his potential testimony in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s inquiry or future grand jury proceedings. The Trump campaign has effectively attacked Stone in a way that could taint any testimony he might give against the president.

In a legal filing, Stone’s attorneys argued that the president and his team were trying to silence him and potentially damage his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent in case of criminal proceedings. Trump’s campaign attorney responded that the First Amendment forbids the court from censoring the political free speech of the president or his supporters.

The issue of freedom of speech has taken center stage in the legal fight between the president’s campaign and Stone. The former political operative’s legal team has argued that the president and his team have sought to chill Stone’s speech and thereby interfere with his ability to remain silent if called upon to testify in the investigation. On the other hand, the Trump campaign has argued that the First Amendment protects its ability to comment on Stone without fear of litigation or criminal consequences.

At this point, there is no telling which side will prevail in this legal battle. But one thing is certain: it presents an opportunity for the courts to weigh in on the delicate balance between a person’s right to remain silent and the public’s right to information.

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