US prosecutors seek narrow gag order on Donald Trump in election case

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In Washington, the former president and and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis made their cases to evangelical voters who gathered for a pair of events on Friday, seeking an edge with a voting bloc likely to play a pivotal role in selecting a 2024 presidential nominee.

The pressure was all on Mr DeSantis, who trails Mr Trump in the Republican primary contest by nearly 40 percentage points in most opinion polls, including among evangelical voters.

Both candidates spoke at a pair of national summits convened by the Concerned Women of America and the Family Research Council, evangelical advocacy groups that support laws restricting abortion among other issues.

At the Family Research Council event, Mr DeSantis defended allowing churches to remain open in Florida during the Covid-19 pandemic, drawing cheers from the ballroom crowd.

“We protected our religious institutions when so many states were running roughshod over people’s rights to practice their faith in full,” he said.

Mr DeSantis also talked up Florida’s law that bans abortion at six weeks, one of the most restrictive in the nation. “We have stood up,” he said.

Mr Trump also addressed abortion at the council event, saying he supports bans with exceptions for rape, incest and to save the life of the mother, a position that was received coolly by the crowd.

Mr Trump said a more restrictive position on abortion damages Republicans in elections.

“They lost a lot of elections, and we can’t let that happen,” he said. “Many politicians who are pro-life do not know how to properly discuss the topic.”

Longtime president of the council, Tony Perkins, a prominent evangelical leader, did not endorse Mr Trump during his 2016 campaign and has yet to endorse a candidate this time around. But introducing Mr Trump, he praised him as “a man who fights for what he believes in.”

Even with Mr Trump’s sobering talk on abortion, there was little sign he has lost his grip on social conservatives. He received a thunderous ovation from the crowd.

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