A gag order preventing former President Donald Trump from targeting witnesses and prosecutors in his federal election interference case has been stayed again. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals issued the order on Friday, temporarily pausing the implementation of the gag order and expediting the case.
This comes after Judge Tanya Chutkan ruled in a lower court that Trump’s social media taunts posed a danger to the case and witnesses, and therefore, he should be barred from speech that would “target” those involved.
The appeals court has now given Trump’s team until Tuesday to argue why the gag order should remain on hold throughout the appeal.
Trump’s legal team has argued that the gag order violates his First Amendment rights and could hinder his electoral prospects. However, Chutkan has maintained that the First Amendment rights of participants in criminal proceedings must yield to the orderly administration of justice.
She also highlighted the threats faced by those targeted by Trump. She noted that Trump’s attorneys have not disputed that his remarks could endanger individuals. In addition, Trump’s legal team claims that the gag order is too vague. Chutkan has argued that the prohibition on “targeting” statements can be straightforwardly understood and applied based on Trump’s previous statements. She even gave examples using some of Trump’s previous posts on what was acceptable and what wasn’t.
Meanwhile, the judge presiding over Donald Trump’s civil fraud trial has broadened the gag order to include Trump’s lawyers. This decision comes after prolonged discussions about the judge’s communication with his law clerk during court proceedings this week.
In a written order on Friday, Judge Arthur Engoron barred Trump’s attorneys from discussing confidential communications with the judge and his staff, either inside or outside the courtroom.
The judge presiding over the bench trial has received numerous harassing and threatening phone calls, voicemails, emails, letters, and packages since the trial began. The judge believes that while defendants and their attorneys have the First Amendment right to comment on court staff, the need to protect them from threats and physical harm is far more important. Adding that violating the order would result in “serious sanctions.”
During the trial, Trump’s legal team clashed with Engoron over his clerk, accusing her of bias due to eye-rolling during testimony. On Thursday, Chris Kise, an attorney for Trump, claimed that there was sometimes “co-judging” occurring and that he was being handed information frequently. He stated that on the previous day, there were 30-40 occurrences of this happening.
Engoron stated that he has the right to seek counsel from his clerk, and Trump’s legal team is not entitled to know what they contain. Engoron stated that they were “confidential communications from my law clerk.”