Trump legal woesTrump legal woes
Molly Butler / Media Matters

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Trump legal cases' judges, prosecutors have been attacked by right-wing media and threatened by the public

In addition to death threats, swatting attempts, and envelopes full of white powder, many of the judges and prosecutors involved in former President Donald Trump's various legal battles have also faced abuse from right-wing media figures. These public servants have been demonized as politically motivated, corrupt, and unethical, and in several cases right-wing media have attacked judges' families as well.

  • Threats against public officials are increasing amid Trump's attacks on his political and legal opponents

    • The New York Times recently reported that political violence and threats against public officials have been on the rise since 2020. The Times noted Trump's role in this trend, writing, “The former president has long used personal attacks as a strategy to intimidate his adversaries. He has turned that tactic on the judges and prosecutors involved in his various legal cases, all of whom have subsequently been threatened.” [The New York Times, 5/19/24]
  • Special counsel Jack Smith

  • Special counsel Jack Smith, who was appointed to oversee two investigations into Trump — one related to his retention of classified documents, and another into his efforts to overturn the 2020 election — was subjected to an attempted swatting raid alongside other threats since his appointment. Smith has been repeatedly targeted by both Trump and his right-wing media sympathizers. They hit Smith with personal attacks and made misleading claims about the cases he is presenting against the former president.

    • In August, Fox News’ Mark Levin attacked Smith, saying, “This guy is sleazy, he's destroying our republic, he's destroyed our electoral system.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 8/3/23]
    • On Newsmax, Trump official Peter Navarro said Trump must order a future attorney general to prosecute Jack Smith for “seditious conspiracy.” [Newsmax, Rob Schmitt Tonight, 8/1/23]
    • While ranting against Trump’s various indictments, Levin stated that “Jack the Ripper Smith, his ass should be dragged in front of a committee in Congress whether he likes it or not.” Additionally, he stated that Smith’s “family is bloated with Obama Democrats.” [Fox News, Hannity, 3/30/23]
    • Fox host Laura Ingraham said, “AG Garland and his prosecutorial hitman Jack Smith are doing more damage to America than any group of Capitol rioters ever could.” [Fox News, The Ingraham Angle, 8/7/23]
  • District Attorney Fani Willis

  • At least two people have been charged with making threats against Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis while she has been prosecuting Trump for his alleged efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election results in Georgia. Trump and right-wing media figures have frequently targeted Willis, saying that she is “corrupt” and that her case against Trump is politically motivated.

    • While discussing Trump’s indictment in Georgia, Fox News contributor Newt Gingrich stated on Hannity, “I think what you're seeing tonight is one tree in a forest and I think we are drifting towards the greatest constitutional crisis since the 1850s and the rise of secession and the Civil War.” He suggested that the indictments against Trump are “a desperate last-ditch effort by a corrupt machine to destroy their most dangerous opponent, in a way which … breaks the Constitution, destroys the rule of law.” [Fox News, Hannity, 8/14/23]
    • Right-wing podcaster Tim Pool responded to a post claiming that the “Fulton County DA went insane” with the comment “Civil war.” He later posted, “The only path forward is escalation. Either Trump is a cult leader trying to overthrow the US Or Democrats are engaged in seditious conspiracy to steal power.” [Twitter/X, 8/15/23, 8/15/23]
    • Fox host Mark Levin said of the indictment brought forward by Willis: “Stalin would be proud. I'm sure Putin’s proud." He called the indictment “the motions of justice,” compared it to the actions of “autocratic regimes,” and said Willis has “been doing a number of outrageous things.” [Fox News, Hannity, 8/14/23]
  • District Attorney Alvin Bragg

  • Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg — who is currently prosecuting Trump for allegedly making hush money payments to a porn star in an effort to influence the 2016 election — has been repeatedly targeted with death threats. Bragg’s office has been “inundated with racist emails” and letters since he indicted Trump, including one death threat that was mailed to his office along with a white powder. Both Trump and right-wing media figures have lobbed extreme attacks against Bragg, who they have repeatedly claimed is a “Soros-backed” district attorney.

    • Fox host Greg Gutfeld claimed Alvin Bragg “has more blood on his hands than the Wuhan market.” Gutfeld also claimed that Bragg “is reinventing it [the justice system] as a prosecution arm for the hard left, which should be pretty chilling to everybody because no one is safe if he can do this.” [Fox News, The Five, 3/22/23]
    • Former Trump adviser Stephen Miller claimed that Bragg’s case showed that “we are now living in a post-Constitution, post-truth era where progressive, Soros-backed prosecutors will decide for themselves who is free and who is not.” While appearing on the now-defunct Tucker Carlson Tonight, Miller warned, “If we allow our legal system to become weaponized in this way, then all of our freedoms exist solely on the sufferance of whichever prosecutor is in charge wherever we live.” [Fox News, Tucker Carlson Tonight, 3/23/23]
    • On his radio show, Fox's Mark Levin stated, “Alvin Bragg should wind up in prison. He's interfering with this election.” [Westwood One, The Mark Levin Show, 4/4/24]
  • Judge Juan Merchan

  • Judge Juan Merchan is presiding over Trump’s hush money trial. Both Merchan and his family have been the target of threats, which has resulted in the judge taking measures to protect himself and his family. Conservative media have defended Trump’s smears against Merchan’s daughter and have amplified the former president’s attacks.

    • Trump ally and far-right conspiracy theorist Laura Loomer said Trump wouldn’t need to attack Merchan’s daughter if the judge’s family members “were ethical and they stopped posting about Trump going to jail.” She then downplayed the attacks, adding, “They're so overdramatic, these people.” [Rumble, Loomer Unleashed, 3/28/24]
    • Fox host Laura Ingraham claimed that it “sure looks like an apparent conflict of interest that the judge’s daughter has” while calling Trump’s trial a “fraud.” Her guest, former Trump impeachment defense lawyer David Schoen, added, “The appearance of impropriety is clear, so he should recuse himself for that reason.” [Fox News, The Ingraham Angle, 4/2/24]
    • War Room co-host Natalie Winters accused Merchan of conspiring with progressive donor George Soros and the Brennan Center to wage “lawfare” against Trump, citing Merchan’s daughter’s company ties with Democrats and progressive organizations. Winters also claimed that the organization run by Merchan’s daughter worked for a “Chinese Communist Party influence group behind Confucius Institutes - hotbeds of propaganda and espionage banned by Trump.” [Twitter/X, 5/14/24, 5/13/24]
    • On Fox News’ America’s Newsroom, attorney Jonna Spilbor speculated about whether people had “filed complaints with the committee on judicial conduct complaining about the fact that he should have recused himself.” Spilbor also asserted that “people who are not fans of Donald Trump should be looking at this prosecution and saying to themselves, ‘This scares me, because if they can do it to him, they can do it to me, my husband, my wife, my brother, sister, anybody.’” [Fox News, America’s Newsroom, 5/13/24]
    • Real America’s Voice host Wayne Allyn Root wrote that Merchan would “wind up in Guantanamo for life for TREASON.” He also called the trial a “rigged communist show trial run by [a] communist judge” and added, “I'll be the one clapping as they take him away in leg irons.” [Twitter/X, 4/30/24]
  • Judge Tanya Chutkan

  • Judge Tanya Chutkan was appointed to oversee Trump’s election interference case and now has faced multiple instances of harassment. Chutkan has reportedly received threatening phone calls and was seemingly the victim of a swatting attempt. The justice has been a target of right-wing media’s vitriol, which has included calls for her to recuse herself from Trump’s case.

    • Fox’s Mark Levin called Chutkan “a whack job.” He then asked his audience, “Do you think Trump will get a fair shot with her? Of course not.” He added, “The system is really truly rigged.” [Westwood One, The Mark Levin Show, 8/2/23]
    • On WABC’s now-discontinued Chat with the Mayor, host and alleged Trump co-conspirator Rudy Giuliani called Chutkan “the most inhumane sentencer on the court for January 6 people” and said she is “hardly … going to be balanced in this case.” He went on to claim, “This is the Soviet Union, Red China, or Nazi Germany. That judge should recuse herself if she has any ethics.” [Rolling Stone, 8/1/23; WABC, Chat with the Mayor, 8/2/23; The New York Times, 5/10/24]
    • On Newsmax, former Trump adviser Sebastian Gorka said Trump’s case “is their attempt to steal 2024” and called Chutkan “the worst January 6 judge possible.” He cited Chutkan’s role in ruling to convict January 6 rioters, saying, “This is a political hit job, nothing else.” [Newsmax, Rob Schmitt Tonight, 8/1/23]
    • On Fox News' Jesse Watters Primetime, a graphic depicted Chutkan as “the Obama Punisher.” Host Jesse Watters described her as “an Obama donor, nicknamed ‘the Punisher’ for how harsh she’s been with January 6 defendants.” [Fox News, Jesse Watters Primetime, 8/2/23]
  • Judge Arthur Engoron

  • While presiding over Trump’s civil fraud trial, Judge Arthur Engoron and his clerk, Allison Greenfield, reportedly were “bombarded” with death threats and antisemitic attacks. In one instance, an individual paid a website for private information about Engoron, which law enforcement said “confirmed intentions to follow through with the threats” if Engoron did not “cease action” against Trump. Trump himself had shared calls for a “citizens arrest” of Engoron and District Attorney Letitia James.

    • On his War Room podcast, Steve Bannon called Engoron a “crazy Nazi judge.” Bannon also insinuated that Engoron would go after other Trump allies, stating to MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, “They’re trying to bankrupt him [Trump], they’re trying to bankrupt you.” [Media Matters, 1/30/24]
    • Infowars' Alex Jones called Engoron a “virulent anti-free speech guy” and a “kook” and a  “political operative.” Jones went on to claim that Engoron would be “rewarded as the Democrats continue to have dictatorship — they’ll make this guy a Supreme Court Justice.” [Infowars, The Alex Jones Show, 11/10/23]
    • On her Rumble livestream, Laura Loomer justified the attacks against Engoron and his family, saying that “Trump wouldn't need to attack the members of these, the family members of these judges if they actually were ethical.” She singled out Engoron’s wife and added that the outrage over Trump’s repeated attacks against Engoron was “overdramatic.” [Rumble, Loomer Unleashed, 3/28/24]