Trump seeks First Amendment protection in election interference indictment

Former president Donald Trump’s lawyers are saying his indictment on charges of attempting to subvert the 2020 presidential election is an attack on his free speech rights. But his prosecutors and legal experts say that his speech led to action that is not protected. (The Associated Press, August 2, 2023, by Eric Tucker and Alanna Durkin Richer)

Law professor Jonathan Turley in USA TODAY, August 3, 2023, argues that Trump’s statements about the 2020 election being stolen, even if he knew they were lies, should be protected. “The hatred for Trump is so all-encompassing that legal experts on the political left have ignored the chilling implications of this indictment,” writes Turley. “This complaint is based largely on statements that are protected under the First Amendment. It would eviscerate free speech and could allow the government to arrest those who are accused of spreading disinformation in elections.”

James Zirin in the Washington Monthly, August 2, 2023, asks the question, “Can the Constitution be a defense for someone who tried to subvert it?” Zirin writes, “Smith [Special Counsel Jack Smith] crafted the indictment precisely to deny Trump a First Amendment path to acquittal, wrapping Trump’s conduct around conspiracy law. A conspiracy, judges charge juries, is a ‘partnership in crime.’ The essence of the offense is the agreement to commit an illegal act; it is separate from the crime itself. The Trump indictment charges acts, declarations, and conduct—not speech—in three separate conspiracies.”

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