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Trump Tests Federal Gag Order With Attack On Bill Barr: ‘He Was A Coward’

Donald Trump tested the contours of his gag order in the federal criminal case over his efforts to overturn the 2020 election results, assailing his former attorney general and potential trial witness William Barr in remarks at a Saturday night New York gala event.

“I make this commitment to you tonight: we will not have Bill Barr as our attorney general, is that OK?” Trump said as he discussed a potential second presidency. “He was a coward. He was afraid of being impeached.”

The US court of appeals for the DC circuit notably ruled days before that Trump remains barred from attacking potential trial witnesses in the 2020 election interference case pending against him in Washington as long as his attacks do not involve their participation in the criminal investigation or trial proceedings.

Under that standard, it was unclear whether Trump directly violated the conditions of the gag order, which he has vowed to appeal to the US supreme court. But it tested the restriction’s scope and cast into doubt his ability to stay clear of being held in contempt.

The remark about Barr came during a speech heavy with resentment about Trump’s four criminal indictments and vows for revenge before an audience that included allies he is expected to tap for top justice department roles should he be re-elected next year to the White House.

Trump compared himself again to the legendary mob boss Al Capone. But he appeared to press the point more in front of his most loyal allies, including Kash Patel – widely considered a candidate for FBI or CIA director – and Jeffrey Clark, a former justice department official who has himself been indicted.

Donald Trump hugs his former chief strategist Steve Bannon after during the 111th New York Young Republicans Gala in New York, on Saturday. Photograph: Sarah Yenesel/EPAPatel and Clark connected for a brief private conversation after Trump finished his remarks and left the New York Young Republican Club’s black-tie gala with his in-house counsel Boris Epshteyn, also seen as a candidate for a top White House legal role if there is a second Trump administration.

The former president has been indicted four times: for retaining classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago club and obstructing justice, for his efforts to overturn the 2020 election in Washington, for trying to overturn the 2020 election in Georgia, and for paying hush money to a porn star.

Trump flashed a forced grin when he delivered the complaint that Capone, “the greatest gangster”, was indicted only once, which caused dinner guests to guffaw. But his voice betrayed a deep sense of bitterness and what came across as a thinly-veiled message for his allies to exact retribution.

The speech was delivered from the same stage at Cipriani Wall Street where Hillary Clinton referred to Trump supporters as a “basket of deplorables” before she lost the 2016 election to Trump. The theme of Trump’s remarks was revenge: how he had gotten the better of Washington elites before and how he would do so again.

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Trump repeatedly name-checked Steve Bannon, the former chief strategist with whom he forged a close bond during the 2016 campaign, as he retold the story of how Bannon had urged him not to drop out of the race over the objections of former Republican National Committee chair Reince Priebus.

The story about that moment and of his disdain for the criticism he received for bragging about touching women’s genitals in an infamous Access Hollywood tape underscored the recent return of his original allies to his orbit.

Trump also called out to Epshteyn, a close confidant with long ties to Bannon who now oversees Trump’s legal teams, and Raheem Kassam, another longtime Bannon associate. Trump’s communications director Steve Cheung, a former Bannon adviser, was scheduled to attend but did not.

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