US federal appeals court temporarily freezes gag order against Trump News
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US federal appeals court temporarily freezes gag order against Trump

The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal District of Columbia Circuit on Friday temporarily froze a gag order against Trump. The per curium decision stated the purpose of the temporary freeze was to give the court time to consider an appealed emergency motion for a stay of the order requested by the former president.

Trump submitted the emergency motion to stay the gag order on Thursday after a lower court rejected the request. The emergency motion addressed a gag order issued on October 16, ahead of Trump’s criminal trial over alleged election interference during the 2020 US presidential election. The order prohibited him from making any disparaging statements about the court, prosecutors or potential witnesses.

In the defensive motion, Trump claimed the order amounted to an unconstitutional violation of his First Amendment right to free speech. He cited several US Supreme Court cases that underscored that, “restraints on speech and publication are the most serious and the least tolerable infringement on First Amendment rights.” As such, he argued that any infringement must be subjected to the highest level of scrutiny.

Furthermore, he claimed that the order restricted “core political and campaign speech.” Trump alleged that his political opponents are using issues related to his indictment to campaign for support. He argued that this political use of his criminal case against him should open First Amendment protections “to rebut them and to criticize the current and former government officials attacking him.”

Trump also requested expedited review of the motion. The court granted the request pursuant to the D.C. Circuit Handbook of Practice and Internal Procedures Rule 33. The rule states that the court “may expedite cases in which the public generally, or in which persons not before the Court, have an unusual interest in prompt disposition.”

This is the second freeze of the gag order since it was issued on October 16. A federal district judge lifted the order on October 20 to allow Trump to prepare an argument against the order. However, after assessment of the submitted defense, the order was reinstated. The judge cited social media posts made by Trump during the pause. One claimed that the prosecution was politically-motivated. The second named a potential witness. The judge acknowledged the freedom of speech protected by the First Amendment, but countered that this freedom is not limitless and that courts must balance it with protecting the integrity of court proceedings.

Oral arguments on the merits of the gag order are scheduled for November 20.