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


– The Washington Post

The latest escalation in President Trump’s broad attacks on his political opponents — his attacks on former Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch and other forthcoming witnesses in the impeachment inquiry — have collided head-on with a court-imposed gag order preventing key witnesses from discussing the case out of fear of influencing the public’s opinion.

At issue is a recent order from a federal judge that prohibits attorneys for Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, two foreign nationals who were granted immunity in the Southern District of New York’s campaign finance case, from “engaging in any ex parte communication with any person, including the media, regarding this case.”

The judge’s order essentially prevents Parnas and Fruman from talking to reporters about what they know — including information that could be potentially damaging to the president — while their case is still pending.

But the president’s recent tweets and comments have put media members directly in contact with Parnas and Fruman for comment. Many reporters have sought out the two men for comment in the wake of Trump’s tweets on Yovanovitch, the former ambassador to Ukraine, and other possible impeachment witnesses.

The president has railed against Yovanovitch, labeling her “bad news” and saying she was “held in contempt” by President Zelensky of Ukraine. He implied that she was working against him, and suggested that Parnas and Fruman were somehow responsible for her removal.

But according to court documents, Parnas and Fruman were never actually involved in the decision to remove Yovanovitch from her post, and now it appears that the president’s comments could be interpreted as a violation of the gag order.

It remains to be seen if the judge in the case will take action against Trump’s comments, but the situation is a clear example of how the president’s often inflammatory rhetoric has the potential to influence legal proceedings.

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