Appeals Court Halts Gag Order Against Donald Trump in Election Interference Case

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AP Photo/Michael Wyke

Perhaps former President Donald Trump won’t be muzzled by the courts after all. Weeks after Judge Tanya Chutkan, who is presiding over the D.C. Circuit case against the former president, issued a gag order preventing him from making certain types of comments about the trial and those involved in the proceedings.

Trump’s lawyer indicated that his team would fight against what they refer to as an effort to silence Trump as he seeks another term in office. Now, an appeals court on Friday has paused the implementation of the order, which could scuttle a clear effort to use the court system to hamper Trump on the campaign trail.

An appeals court Friday ordered an administrative stay of a gag order barring former President Trump from targeting witnesses and the prosecutors in his federal election interference case, temporarily pausing its implementation ahead of further legal battles.

The order from the D.C. Circuit court of appeals also expedites the case.

The decision tees up a similar legal battle already litigated in a lower court, where Judge Tanya Chutkan determined the threats and harassment resulting from Trump’s social media taunts posed danger to the case and his subjects, barring him from speech that would “target” those involved in the case.

Now, the panel is giving Trump until Tuesday to make his case as to why the judge’s order should remain on hold throughout the course of his appeal.

The former president’s attorneys insist that Chutkan’s gag order infringes on his First Amendment rights and could impede his efforts in the upcoming 2024 presidential election. In her original order, the judge argued, “the First Amendment rights of participants in criminal proceedings must yield, when necessary, to the orderly administration of justice.”

Chutkan argued that Trump’s legal team “never disputed” claims that his comments could pose a threat to the people he singles out in his public comments.

The judge imposed the order in October, arguing that it was necessary to protect the integrity of the court proceedings against the former president.

The federal judge overseeing the 2020 election subversion case against Donald Trump in Washington imposed a narrow gag order on him on Monday, barring the Republican former president from making statements targeting prosecutors, possible witnesses and the judge’s staff.

The order from U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan is a milestone moment in the federal case that accuses Trump of illegally conspiring to overturn his 2020 election loss to Democrat Joe Biden.

Special counsel Jack Smith’s team had raised alarm about a barrage of statements disparaging prosecutors, the judge and prospective witnesses. Those comments, prosecutors said, risked undermining public confidence in the court system and causing witnesses or people who might be picked as jurors for trial to feel harassed and intimidated.

Chukan said there would be no restrictions on statements criticizing the Justice Department generally or statements about Trump’s belief that the case is politically motivated.

Later, Chutkan revealed the contents of the order, which further highlighted the restrictions she placed on Trump’s ability to engage in speech.

All interested parties in this matter, including the parties and their counsel, are prohibited from making any public statements, or directing others to make any public statements, that target (1) the Special Counsel prosecuting this case or his staff; (2) defense counsel or their staff; (3) any of this court’s staff or other supporting personnel; or (4) any reasonably foreseeable witness or the substance of their testimony.

While we do not yet know the outcome of this particular battle, if it goes Trump’s way, then it will mean that another effort to weaponize the government against the former president has failed. If not, however, it will become even harder for Trump to campaign. Indeed, he has also been fined and threatened with jail time twice, for supposedly violating a gag order issued by a judge presiding over a trial against Trump in New York.

Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article indicated that Judge Chutkan was overseeing the Fulton County (Georgia) case rather than the D.C. Circuit case. We apologize to our readers for the error.

1 COMMENT

  1. Anyone with a mind of their own can see that these trials against Trump are politically motivated witch hunts. The criminal intention of the democrat party is to silence Trump and his family from campaigning and their constitutional rights of free speech. Its pure election interference and the biased judges and prosecutors know they have no cases because of statute of limitations, because of the right to protest an election outcome, and the documents are declassified by presidential order.

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