Special counsel Jack Smith, in a recent legal filing in Washington, D.C., intriguingly likened himself to the martyred Catholic saint Thomas à Becket. This comparison was made as Smith seeks to enforce a gag order against former President Donald Trump, as reported by the New York Sun.
Thomas à Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury, was murdered in his cathedral about a millennium ago, following a conflict with England’s King Henry II over church teachings. The king’s exasperated question, “Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?” led to Becket’s assassination by four knights. Harvard Professor James Simpson commented to the Sun on the historical relevance of this citation, emphasizing the powerful impact of indirect orders and words.
The Sun added:
Yet Mr. Smith offers the court fear rather than facts. By linking Henry’s question to Mr. Trump’s heated rhetoric — yesterday, the former president speculated that the special counsel will end up in a mental Institution “by the time my next term as President is successfully completed” — Mr. Smith aims to persuade the D.C. Circuit to ratify Judge Tanya Chutkan’s gag order, which is stayed pending this appeal.
Amidst a temporary halt in the gag order issued by Judge Chutkan, Trump has openly criticized Smith, labeling him as “deranged” and a “Trump-hating prosecutor.” Smith’s legal filing, supported by five Justice Department attorneys and reported by Newsweek, drew parallels between Trump’s attacks and the indirect incitement that led to Becket’s murder. They argued that such repeated attacks could be perceived as signals to act.
Smith is leading the prosecution case in Trump’s election interference case and is a frequent target of the former president at campaign rallies.
In their filing on Tuesday, the prosecutors ask the appeal court to reimpose a gag order that was placed on Trump by Tanya Chutkan, the U.S. district judge in Washington D.C. overseeing Trump’s election interference case.
Smith’s team contended that no criminal case has ever allowed a defendant complete freedom to try their case in the media, denigrate the prosecutor and his family, or target specific witnesses. They defended Chutkan’s gag order as being based on solid facts, narrowly focused, and clear enough to guide the defendant’s conduct.
The prosecutors maintained that the order allows Trump to perform almost all activities he claims are necessary for his political campaign while simultaneously defending himself in court. They differentiated between criticizing political rivals or claiming political motivation for the prosecution, and targeting trial participants or their expected testimony.
Additionally, they noted that Trump has recently resumed targeting Smith’s family while the gag order is temporarily paused. The appellate court is set to hear oral arguments on this issue soon. In response, Trump’s legal team argued to the appeals court that Chutkan’s gag order was excessively broad.