Court temporarily pauses Trump gag order in D.C. election interference case

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit has temporarily paused a gag order that prohibited former President Donald Trump from making statements about potential witnesses or disparaging comments about the prosecutors involved in the federal election interference case against him.

The gag order will be stayed until after the appeals court hears oral argument on Trump’s request that the gag order be permanently removed. Those oral arguments are scheduled for Nov. 20, according to the filing.

The order is a victory from Trump’s attorneys who dismissed as “baseless” concerns that a gag order was needed for the proper administration of justice and had argued in a filing Thursday that the order imposed by U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan of Washington, D.C., violated Trump’s First Amendment rights.

In their Thursday filing, Trump’s attorneys said the imposed order, which barred Trump, and all parties, from making or reposting any statements that publicly targeted special counsel Jack Smith or his staff, embodied “unconstitutional hostility” to the former president’s point of view, and called for it to be immediately stayed.

A spokesperson from Smith’s office declined to comment.

Prosecutors in Smith’s office said in a filing last month that the order was necessary to “protect the integrity of the trial and the jury pool.” In pressing for the gag order, they highlighted a series of instances on social media and in interviews that involved Trump “publicly maligning witnesses and very intentionally commenting on the specific topics of their potential testimony at trial.”

Chutkan, the judge presiding over the case, had allowed a temporary pause on her order last month to permit Trump’s defense team to pursue an appeal of her ruling.

A courtroom clerk for Chutkan did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday evening.

Chutkan noted last month that her ruling did not restrict statements that were critical of the government or the Justice Department broadly. She also said the order didn’t restrict Trump’s claims that “his prosecution is politically motivated; or statements criticizing the campaign platforms or policies of Defendant’s current political rivals, such as former Vice President” Mike Pence.

Judge Authur Engoron, who is presiding over Trump’s $250 million civil fraud trial, also issued a partial gag order on the former president last month following disparaging remarks he made on social media and to reporters about Engoron’s principal law clerk. Trump was fined twice for violating that order, which was expanded to his attorneys this week after Engoron said they falsely accused the clerk of “bias against them.”

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