Appeals Court Temporarily Lifts Trump Gag Order in D.C. Case – On Friday, a federal appeals court granted former President Donald Trump’s request to temporarily lift a gag order imposed by U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan, allowing him to freely comment on the election-subversion case against him in Washington, which involves special counsel Jack Smith, his team, court officials, and potential witnesses.
The appeals court’s decision suggests that the gag order, which Donald Trump argues infringes on his and his supporters’ First Amendment rights, will likely remain lifted for more than two weeks, possibly longer. Trump has also expressed concerns that the order hinders his ability as a presidential candidate to convey to voters that he is the target of political persecution by the Biden administration.
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The D.C. Circuit has scheduled oral arguments regarding the gag order for November 20. The panel responsible for this order included two judges appointed during the Obama administration, Patricia Millett and Cornelia Pillard, along with the court’s newest member, Bradley Garcia, appointed by President Biden.
The panel’s brief order did not provide a detailed rationale for their decision, but it did contain standard language indicating that the “administrative stay” was not a judgment on the merits of Judge Chutkan’s order, serving only to grant the panel time for a thorough case review. On October 17, Judge Chutkan issued a written gag order in response to a request from Smith’s team.
They argued that Donald Trump’s consistent and provocative criticism of witnesses, prosecutors, the judge, and even Washington, D.C., posed a threat to the fairness and credibility of his impending trial scheduled to commence on March 4. Judge Chutkan acknowledged that Donald Trump’s inflammatory remarks posed a threat to the legal proceedings.
Her order prohibited all involved parties from “targeting” witnesses, prosecutors, and court personnel. She clarified that Trump was still allowed to criticize her, the Biden administration, and the Justice Department, assert his innocence, and make claims about the political motivation behind his prosecution. Trump has criticized these restrictions as an unprecedented attack on his freedom of speech, especially during the 2024 presidential campaign cycle.
Judge Chutkan has consistently emphasized that she would not allow presidential politics or campaign schedules to influence her decision-making. Initially, after Trump requested a stay from Judge Chutkan, she temporarily suspended her order for about a week but later reinstated it, stating that she was not convinced by his legal team’s arguments claiming that the directive was too vague and broad.
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In addition to this gag order, Trump is also subject to another gag order in connection with a civil suit filed by New York Attorney General Tish James, which targets alleged widespread fraud in his real estate business. The judge in that case has fined Trump twice, totaling $15,000, for violating the directive to cease public statements about the judge’s clerk and other court staff. Disputes over the extent of the gag order in that case continued on Friday, with the judge issuing a written order stating that lawyers involved in the case were now also bound by the directive.