An appeals court Friday ordered an administrative stay of a gag order barring former President Trump from targeting witnesses and the prosecutors in his federal election interference case, temporarily pausing its implementation ahead of further legal battles.
The order from the D.C. Circuit court of appeals also expedites the case.
The decision tees up a similar legal battle already litigated in a lower court, where Judge Tanya Chutkan determined the threats and harassment resulting from Trump’s social media taunts posed danger to the case and his subjects, barring him from speech that would “target” those involved in the case.
Like the appeals court, she agreed to an administrative stay of her order after Trump appealed her decision, ultimately siding with the Justice Department on Sunday that the gag order should remain in place while Trump continues the battle to have her division overturned.
A three-judge panel on the appeals court gave Trump’s team until Tuesday to make their case why Chutkan’s gag order should remain on ice throughout the course of his appeal.
Trump’s team has argued Chutkan’s order is a violation of his First Amendment rights — one that could hamper his electoral prospects.
“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,” Chutkan wrote in the 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.”
Chutkan went on to note the threats faced by those Trump targets, writing that Trump’s attorneys “never disputed” that his remarks could endanger those he singles out.
“The evidence is in the record; Defendant simply fails to acknowledge it,” she wrote.
Trump’s legal team has also argued Chutkan’s order was too vague, leaving lines blurred between what would be permissible criticism of the case and its witnesses.
In response, Chutkan parsed statements Trump made both under the order and when briefly relieved from it.
The statements “demonstrate that far from being arbitrary or standardless, the Order’s prohibition on ‘targeting’ statements can be straightforwardly understood and applied,” she said.