- The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a 68-page ruling Friday upholding the gag order District Judge Tanya Chutkan issued against former President Donald Trump in his 2020 election case, with some limits.
- Under the narrowed order, Trump can make statements criticizing Special Counsel Jack Smith.
- “Mr. Trump’s documented pattern of speech and its demonstrated real-time, real-world consequences pose a significant and imminent threat to the functioning of the criminal trial process in this case in two respects,” Obama-appointed Judge Patricia Millett wrote in the opinion of the court.
A federal appeals court upheld the gag order issued against former President Donald Trump, with some changes.
In a 68-page ruling, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld significant aspects of the gag order District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan imposed on Trump, restricting statements about witnesses, prosecutors and members of the court staff or family members of those individuals. The court lifted parts of the order that prohibited Trump from making statements about Special Counsel Jack Smith and narrowed the portion about witnesses to restrict only statements “concerning their potential participation in the investigation or in this criminal proceeding.” (RELATED: ‘Uncharted Territory’: Obama-Appointed Judge’s Gag Order On Trump Is The First Of Its Kind, Legal Experts Say)
“Mr. Trump’s documented pattern of speech and its demonstrated real-time, real-world consequences pose a significant and imminent threat to the functioning of the criminal trial process in this case in two respects,” Obama-appointed Judge Patricia Millett wrote in the opinion of the court. Statements about witnesses could pose a threat to their “willingness to participate fully and candidly” and statements about certain staff risks “impeding the adjudication” of the case, Millett wrote.
NEW: DC Circuit narrows the federal gag order on Trump, permitting him to make statements about Jack Smith (but not other prosecutors) and barring him from targeting witnesses in the case specifically concerning their role in the matter. pic.twitter.com/skPJ3AtXsm
— Alan Feuer (@alanfeuer) December 8, 2023
“Specifically, we affirm the Order to the extent it prohibits all parties and their counsel from making or directing others to make public statements about known or reasonably foreseeable witnesses concerning their potential participation in the investigation or in this criminal proceeding,” the court held. “The Order is also affirmed to the extent it prohibits all parties and their counsel from making or directing others to make public statements about—(1) counsel in the case other than the Special Counsel, (2) members of the court’s staff and counsel’s staffs, or (3) the family members of any counsel or staff member—if those statements are made with the intent to materially interfere with, or to cause others to materially interfere with, counsel’s or staff’s work in this criminal case, or with the knowledge that such interference is highly likely to result.” (RELATED: Jack Smith Wants To Use Old Tweets, ‘Stand Back And Stand By’ Comments As Evidence Against Trump)
Special Counsel Jack Smith just lost his coverage under the Trump gag order. The D.C. panel upheld the rest of the order but found that Judge Chutkan’s order…sweeps in more protected speech than is necessary.” https://t.co/yYw8BIIqIk
— Jonathan Turley (@JonathanTurley) December 8, 2023
During oral arguments in November, Millett said the court would have to use “a careful scalpel” to protect the integrity of the criminal trial process while not “skewing the political arena.”
“We do not allow such an order lightly,” the ruling continued. “Mr. Trump is a former President and current candidate for the presidency, and there is a strong public interest in what he has to say. But Mr. Trump is also an indicted criminal defendant, and he must stand trial in a courtroom under the same procedures that govern all other criminal defendants. That is what the rule of law means.”
Steven Cheung, spokesperson for the Trump campaign, said in a statement that the “Biden-led witch hunts against President Trump and the American people will fail.”
“Today, the D.C. Circuit Court panel, with each judge appointed by a Democrat President, determine that a huge part of Judge Chutkan’s extraordinarily overbroad gag order was unconstitutional,” Cheung said. “President Trump will continue to fight for the First Amendment rights of millions of Americans to hear from the leading Presidential candidate at the height of his campaign.”
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