Appeals Court Largely Upholds Trump’s Federal Gag Order

A federal appeals court has largely upheld a gag order on Donald Trump, concluding that Trump’s rhetoric poses “real-time, real-world consequences” that threaten the integrity of his upcoming criminal trial over his attempts to subvert the 2020 presidential election.

A three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Trump’s complaints about free speech and his presidential candidacy ring hollow when juxtaposed with the “imminent” threats his invective has posed to witnesses and the court proceedings themselves.

“The court had a duty to act proactively to prevent the creation of an atmosphere of fear or intimidation aimed at preventing trial participants and staff from performing their functions within the trial process,” Judge Patricia Millett (Obama) wrote for the unanimous court. She and the other two judges on the panel are Democratic appointees.


The three-judge panel’s ruling modifies the gag order to allow the Republican 2024 presidential front-runner to make disparaging comments about special counsel Jack Smith.

“By broadly proscribing any statements about or directed to the Special Counsel and the court’s and counsel’s staffs, as well as reasonably foreseeable witnesses or their testimony, the Order sweeps too broadly,” the court said in its opinion. “It captures some constitutionally protected speech that lacks the features or content that would trench upon the court’s proper functioning or ability to administer justice.”


The new version of the gag order bars Trump and his lawyers from making “public statements about known or reasonably foreseeable witnesses concerning their potential participation in the investigation or in this criminal proceeding.”

It also upheld the section of the order prohibiting Trump and his lawyers from making public statements about lawyers in the case, court staff, special counsel staff or their family members. The one exception is special counsel Jack Smith. The appeals court found the order “should not have restricted speech about the Special Counsel himself.”

But the court also found that Trump “does not have an unlimited right to speak.”

The court also appeared to be skeptical of one of Trump’s proposed solutions, to delay his trial until after the presidential election.

“Delaying the trial date until after the election, as Mr. Trump proposes, would be counterproductive, create perverse incentives, and unreasonably burden the judicial process,” the ruling said.

We do not allow such an order lightly. 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.
So ordered.


The ruling in full

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