A three-judge panel on the appeals court has temporarily halted the enforcement of a gag order against former President Donald Trump, which had restrained him from making certain public statements. This move, revealed in a court filing on Friday, comes in anticipation of Trump’s trial for alleged interference in the 2020 federal election.
The temporary stay, granted by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, was in response to a legal request from Trump’s defense to pause the gag order issued by U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan. The gag order had prohibited Trump from making any public comments that might target court personnel, potential witnesses, or members of special counsel Jack Smith’s prosecution team.
The stay by the appellate judges, Patricia Millett, Cornelia Pillard, and Bradley Garcia, is not a definitive ruling on the gag order’s merits but serves to provide the appeals court with additional time to review the case thoroughly. The court has scheduled a briefing and set oral arguments for November 20 in Washington, D.C.
Trump’s legal team argued that Chutkan’s gag order severely restricts the former president’s ability to engage in essential political speech, especially during a significant election campaign. They labeled the order as “unprecedented” and biased.
While the Department of Justice has urged the courts to maintain the gag order, this marks the second suspension of Chutkan’s directive, allowing time for legal contemplation after Chutkan herself briefly stayed her ruling previously.
The special counsel’s office had originally requested the speech limitations, pointing to the potential risks Trump’s rhetoric could pose to the judicial process and the legal proceedings’ integrity. Judge Chutkan partially agreed to this request, setting limitations specifically on Trump’s public statements about individuals involved in the case.
Chutkan maintained that her order aimed to protect the forthcoming trial’s integrity, asserting that Trump was subject to the same restrictions as any defendant, without prejudice to the content of his speech.
Trump, who is facing four charges related to his alleged attempts to influence the outcome of the 2020 election, has entered a plea of not guilty. He has openly criticized the special counsel and Chutkan, suggesting a political bias. Despite Trump’s accusations, Chutkan has emphasized that her courtroom is a politics-free zone and that the gag order seeks to secure a fair trial.
The trial is currently scheduled for March 2024.