Trump asks full bench of US appeals court to reconsider gag order in election interference case News
Sgt. Dana M Clarke // Public domain
Trump asks full bench of US appeals court to reconsider gag order in election interference case

Former US President Donald Trump on Monday again asked the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit to weigh in on a gag order imposed in federal prosecutors’ election interference case against him. A three-judge panel of the appeals court previously upheld the gag order on December 8. This time, Trump is asking the court to hear the issue en banc to determine whether the gag order should remain in place or be thrown out.

In his current petition to the court, Trump argued that the three-judge panel’s decision to uphold the gag order goes against court precedent and fails to consider “material points of fact and law.” He also reiterated his argument that he is entitled to greater latitude as a political candidate, as he is currently the leading Republican Party candidate for the 2024 US presidential election.

Trump asserted that keeping the gag order in place “disregard[s] the First Amendment rights of over 100 million American voters,” not just his own. Trump claimed that the three-judge panel’s decision conflicts with other circuit courts, whose decisions have underscored “the critical importance of campaign speech in gagging a criminal defendant.” He maintained that the gag order amounts to a limitation on his political speech and should therefore be either narrowed or lifted completely.

Trump also asserted that the three-judge panel’s decision was improper because the prosecution has “presented no evidence of any threats or harassment to any prosecutor, potential witness, or court staffer.” In their decision, however, the panel explicitly acknowledged that the record of the case “shows that former President Trump’s words have real-world consequences.” The panel went on to describe instances in which Trump’s social media posts about the case resulted in direct threats to those involved. Regardless, Trump once again asserted that the court’s gag order amounts to a “heckler’s veto.”

In concluding his petition, Trump asked that the court temporarily halt enforcement of the gag order while the court considers his request.

The three-judge panel upheld but narrowed an October 16 gag order from US District Judge Tanya Chutkan, who is overseeing the trial proceedings in Trump’s federal election interference case. The December 8 decision held that Trump is still prohibited from making any public statements about any witnesses to the case, federal prosecutors, court staff and their families. Trump is, however, able to make public statements about Special Prosecutor Jack Smith, the federal prosecutor overseeing two criminal cases against him.

Smith alleges that the former president engaged in efforts to interfere with the lawful administration and certification of the 2020 US presidential election. The trial court proceedings are currently on hold as the US Supreme Court weighs in on Trump’s claim of “absolute presidential immunity” from the four criminal charges brought against him in the case.