Trump appealing narrow gag order imposed on him in federal election interference case

Oct 17, 2023, 12:44 PM

FILE - Former President Donald Trump sits during his civil fraud trial at the State Supreme Court b...

FILE - Former President Donald Trump sits during his civil fraud trial at the State Supreme Court building in New York, Oct. 4, 2023. Trump is set to be questioned under oath as part of lawsuits from two former FBI employees who provoked the former president's outrage after sending each other pejorative text messages about him.(Angela Weiss/Pool via AP)

(Angela Weiss/Pool via AP)

Former President Donald Trump’s lawyers told a court Tuesday that they are appealing a narrow gag order imposed on him in his federal 2020 election interference case.

Trump’s lawyers said in court papers that they will challenge an order from U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan that bars Trump from making statements targeting prosecutors, potential witnesses and court staff.

Special counsel Jack Smith’s team sought the order against the Republican 2024 presidential front-runner over a litany of verbal attacks from him on likely witnesses and others. Prosecutors say the attacks were designed to undermine the public’s confidence in the judicial process and taint the jury pool.

Trump vowed Monday to appeal the ruling, calling it unconstitutional.

During a court hearing on Monday, Chutkan said Trump can criticize the Justice Department generally and assert his belief that the case in Washington is politically motivated. But Chutkan, who was appointed by President Barack Obama, said Trump can’t mount a “smear campaign” against prosecutors and court personnel. She repeatedly expressed concern that Trump’s rhetoric could inspire his supporters to violence.

Legal experts have said Chutkan’s gag order may be just the beginning of an unprecedented fight over what limits can be a placed on the speech of a defendant who is also campaigning for America’s highest public office.

At rallies and in social media posts, Trump has repeatedly sought to vilify Smith, other prosecutors, likely witnesses and even the judge. He has called prosecutors a “team of thugs,” called Chutkan “very biased and unfair,” and referred to one potential witness as a “gutless pig.” Prosecutors also cited a post in which Trump suggested that Mark Milley, the then-retiring chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had committed treason and should be executed.

Smith’s team argued that Trump knows that his incendiary remarks could inspire his supporters to threaten or harass his targets. Prosecutors said Trump’s efforts to erode the public’s faith in the judicial system are reminiscent of his attempts to undermine confidence in the 2020 election by spreading lies of fraud after he lost to Democrat Joe Biden.

The case, which accuses Trump of scheming to subvert the results of the election, is scheduled to go to trial in March. It’s one of four criminal cases Trump is facing while he campaigns to return to the White House in 2024. Trump has denied any wrongdoing.

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Trump appealing narrow gag order imposed on him in federal election interference case