The District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals temporarily stayed Federal District Judge Tanya Chutkan’s gag order on former President Donald Trump.
The former president’s attorneys called the order unprecedented and a violation of his First Amendment rights.
“No court in American history has imposed a gag order on a criminal defendant who is actively campaigning for public office—let alone the leading candidate for President of the United States. That centuries-long practice was broken on October 17, 2023, when the district court entered its Opinion and Order, … (the “Gag Order”), muzzling President Trump’s core political speech during an historic Presidential campaign,” Trump attorney John Sauer wrote in his appeal. “Based this speculation, the district court entered a sweeping, viewpoint-based prior restraint on the core political speech of a major Presidential candidate, based solely on an unconstitutional ‘heckler’s veto.’ The Gag Order violates the First Amendment rights of President Trump and over 100 million Americans who listen to him.”
The filing continued, “The prosecution’s request for a Gag Order bristles with hostility to President Trump’s viewpoint and his relentless criticism of the government—including of the prosecution itself. The Gag Order embodies this unconstitutional hostility to President Trump’s viewpoint. It should be immediately stayed.”
Chutkan’s ordered barred Trump from criticizing her or Special Counsel Jack Smith.
Three-Judge Panel to Consider Merits
The appeals court judges agreed to hear oral arguments before a three-judge panel on November 20.
The panel included Judges Patricia Millett and Cornelia Pillard, both Obama appointees, and Judge Bradley Garcia, a Biden appointee. The court gave the caveat that the stay was intended to “give the court sufficient opportunity to consider the emergency motion for a stay pending appeal and should not be construed in any way as a ruling on the merits of that motion.”
Chutkan imposed the gag order last month then relaxed it after Trump decided to appeal. She reimposed the order last week after prosecutors complained that Trump had tried to intimidate his former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.
Trump called Chutkan a “very Biased, Trump Hating Judge” and claimed that the order would “put me at a disadvantage against my prosecutorial and political opponents.”
She imposed the gag order, saying that “critical First Amendment freedoms do not allow him to launch a pretrial smear campaign against participating government staff, their families or foreseeable witnesses.”
New York Judge Broadens Gag Order
The relaxation of the federal gag order came hours after New York Justice Arthur Engoron imposed a sweeping gag order on Trump’s lawyers to bar them from discussing his communications with his staff. Engoron imposed a gag order on Trump in September after he referred to the judge’s clerk as Senate Majority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer’s “girlfriend.”
Trump got under Engoron’s skin after referring to him as a “very partisan judge” and to his clerk as “partisan.” Engoron called Trump’s First Amendment claim “unpersuasive.”
“I will not tolerate under any circumstances, comments about my court staff,” Engoron wrote. “The threat of, actual, violence from political rhetoric is well-documented.”
Should Trump fail in the federal case and the gag order be reimposed, the ex-president could become the first American president to see a jail cell, considering that the judges will not tolerate his continuing violation of their orders.
John Rossomando is a defense and counterterrorism analyst and served as Senior Analyst for Counterterrorism at The Investigative Project on Terrorism for eight years. His work has been featured in numerous publications such as The American Thinker, The National Interest, National Review Online, Daily Wire, Red Alert Politics, CNSNews.com, The Daily Caller, Human Events, Newsmax, The American Spectator, TownHall.com, and Crisis Magazine. He also served as senior managing editor of The Bulletin, a 100,000-circulation daily newspaper in Philadelphia, and received the Pennsylvania Associated Press Managing Editors first-place award for his reporting.