A federal appeals court on Friday put a temporary freeze on a gag order against former President Donald Trump, whose legal team filed an emergency motion Thursday to lift the gag order while his appeal plays out before the court.
A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit issued an order on Nov. 3, requiring that the gag order imposed on President Trump by U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan last month against President Trump is “administratively stayed pending further order of the court.”
“The purpose of this administrative stay is to give the court sufficient opportunity to consider the emergency motion for a stay pending appeal and should not be construed in any way as a ruling on the merits of that motion,” the appellate panel said in its decision.
The move by the appeals court is the latest in the gag order saga, which was triggered by a request by special counsel Jack Smith and imposed when Judge Chutkan issued the order on Oct. 17.
President Trump has been outspoken in the past about Mr. Smith, who is leading the election interference case against him, and others.
The former president has pleaded not guilty in the case.
‘Central to the American Fabric’
The gag order prohibited President Trump from making any public statements or directing others to make any public statements that “target” the prosecution and defense legal teams, court staff, and supporting personnel, and any “reasonably foreseeable” potential witnesses or their testimony in the case.
President Trump sought relief from the gag order from Judge Chutkan herself. While she initially paused the order to give both parties a chance to present briefings on the topic, she later reimposed the gag order on Oct. 30.
Then, in a bid to lift the gag order, lawyers for President Trump filed an emergency motion on Thursday, arguing in their court filing that the gag order violates the former president’s First Amendment rights and those of “over 100 million Americans who listen to him.”
President Trump’s “uniquely powerful voice has been a fixture of American political discourse for eight years, and central to the American fabric for decades,” his attorneys wrote in the filing.
The appeals court sided with President Trump, writing in its order on Friday that it was putting a temporary freeze on the gag order to consider the merits of the emergency motion and scheduling expedited proceedings.
Specifically, President Trump’s lawyers have until Nov. 8 to file a brief, then prosecutors have until Nov. 14 to submit their response, with oral arguments scheduled for Nov. 20.
The gag order in President Trump’s election case in Washington (in which he has pleaded not guilty) isn’t the only one imposed on the former president.
He was also handed a gag order in a separate civil case in New York last month. That case is being pursued by Attorney General Letitia James, and the former president has violated that order twice, resulting in fines of $15,000.
President Trump’s attorneys have argued that their client had made public statements about the Washington election case “for months” but that the Justice Department has so far “submitted no evidence of any actual or imminent threat to the administration of justice.”
“The prosecution’s claim that his core political speech suddenly poses a threat to the administration of justice is baseless. The prosecutors and potential witnesses addressed by President Trump’s speech are high-level government officials and public figures, many of whom routinely attack President Trump in their own public statements, media interviews, and books,” they wrote in court filings.
They argued that the gag order reflected bias and animosity against President Trump and was meritless.
“The prosecution’s request for a Gag Order bristles with hostility to President Trump’s viewpoint and his relentless criticism of the government—including of the prosecution itself,” his attorneys wrote in the filing.
“The Gag Order embodies this unconstitutional hostility to President Trump’s viewpoint. It should be immediately stayed,” they said.
“No court in American history has imposed a gag order on a criminal defendant who is actively campaigning for public office—let alone the leading candidate for President of the United States,” his attorneys continued. “Given the Gag Order’s extraordinary nature, one would expect an extraordinary justification for it. Yet none exists.”
However, in reinstating the gag order, Judge Chutkan sided with prosecutors, noting that President Trump and his lawyers had “not made a strong showing that he is likely to succeed on the merits.”
“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, the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, and the Local Criminal Rules,” she wrote in her 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.”
Catherine Yang and Katabella Roberts contributed to this report.