The unusual “gag order” imposed on President Donald Trump in a federal case related to “election interference” may be relaxed as a three-judge panel considers the matter.
The judges, who heard arguments in a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., appeared skeptical of both sides during the two-and-a-half-hour session. The gag order, initially issued by a trial judge, aims to prevent Trump from making inflammatory remarks against prosecutors, potential witnesses, and court staff. The panel will rule on whether to reinstate the order.
Cecil VanDevender, a lawyer from Special Counsel Jack Smith’s office, argued in favor of the necessity of a gag order, emphasizing that it would prevent “intimidation” and “threats” against participants in the case. Smith’s case alleges that Trump was involved in a scheme to overturn the 2020 election.
In contrast, Trump’s lawyer, John Sauer, urged the court to revoke the order. The court did not provide an immediate ruling, and the outcome of Monday’s arguments will establish parameters for what Trump, as a criminal defendant, can and cannot say as the trial date approaches. The gag order also has implications for Trump’s 2024 Republican presidential nomination campaign.
The panel of judges overseeing the case consists of Cornelia Pillard and Patricia Millett, both appointed by former President Barack Obama. Judge Brad Garcia, a recent addition to the bench, was nominated by Democratic President Joe Biden. U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan initially imposed a partial gag order on October 17, preventing Trump from making statements targeting Special Counsel Jack Smith, his staff, witnesses, and court personnel.
This order was temporarily suspended following a prior appeal by the former president but reinstated by Chutkan on Oct. 29. While the order doesn’t prohibit Trump from expressing general complaints about the case, Chutkan maintains that he is still allowed to assert his claims of innocence and that the case is politically motivated.
Despite ongoing denials of any wrongdoing, Trump contends that the case is part of an effort to impede his potential 2024 presidential candidacy. He has openly criticized those involved, including referring to Smith as “deranged.”