Donald Trump will have to watch what he says and posts on social media – or else he could face further fines, and worse, after the judge presiding over his federal election interference case reinstated a gag order on the former president. It will restrict Trump’s now infamous inflammatory rhetoric as he prepares for multiple trials and campaigns to win the Republican Party’s presidential nomination.
Trump’s lawyers are vowing to fight the order in higher court, which could set up a legal battle on what restrictions can be placed on the speech from a defendant who happens to be running for America’s highest public office.
U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan had first imposed the restrictions on Donald Trump two weeks ago, barring the former president from making public statements targeting prosecutors, court staff, and likely witnesses. Trump’s legal team appealed and asked that the gag be lifted while the appeal plays out in the courts.
As a result, Chutkan temporarily paused the restrictions to allow both sides to brief her on their additional arguments. In her ruling on Monday, the judge said Trump is unlikely to win his appeal on the merits, and that the restrictions are necessary to protect the administration of justice.
“The First Amendment rights of participants in criminal proceedings must yield, when necessary, to the orderly administration of justice,” Judge Chutkan said in her order. “And contrary to Defendant’s argument, the right to a fair trial is not his alone, but belongs also to the government and the public.”
Reasonably Foreseeable Witnesses Off Limits
The order doesn’t specifically name potential witnesses who are off-limits, but many are obvious – and that would likely include any who testified before the grand jury that investigated the case.
That could include Trump’s former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and former Attorney General Bill Barr, both of whom the former president has taken aim at via his Truth Social platform. On Sunday, Trump described Barr as “Dumb, Weak, Slow Moving, Lethargic, Gutless,” – and that would seem to violate the order.
However, Trump would be free to assert his innocence, claim his prosecution is politically motivated, and he could even accuse the Biden administration of being corrupt. Moreover, Trump could write or say anything he wants about Chutkan, who was appointed by President Barack Obama – so we could also expect him to continue to call her a “Biased, Trump Hating Judge.”
Trump’s lawyers have already appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and have indicated they will ask that court to lift the gag order while his appeals play out. That court could ultimately uphold the gag order or find that the restrictions imposed by Chutkan went too far.
It is expected that the issue is likely to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, but there is no guarantee the justices would take up the case.
What If Donald Trump Violates the Order?
On Monday, former White House lawyer Ty Cobb told CNN that he believes that the former president will be sent to jail if he violates the partial gag order – especially as Trump was already fined $15,000 earlier this month after twice violating a more limited gag order in his New York civil fraud trial.
“Well, the New York judge fined him $10,000,” Cobb said in a CNN interview, referring to Trump’s second fine. “That’s in a civil case. That’s not as consequential as Judge Chutkan’s case.
“I think she’ll come in with a much heavier penalty, and ultimately, I think he’ll spend a night or a weekend in jail,” Cobb suggested, adding, “As the court has explained, the First Amendment rights of participants in criminal proceedings must yield, when necessary, to the orderly administration of justice — a principle reflected in Supreme Court precedent.”
Author Experience and Expertise
A Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.
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