Judge hits pause on partial gag order in Trump federal election interference case

Judge hits pause on partial gag order in Trump federal election interference case

WASHINGTON — The judge overseeing the federal election interference case against Donald Trump has temporarily lifted the partial gag order imposed on the former president earlier this week.

U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan on Friday paused the order she issued Monday, after Trump’s attorneys asked her to put the previous ruling aside while they appeal the matter.

The judge gave special counsel Jack Smith’s office until Wednesday to file a response to Trump’s request. Defense attorneys will then have three days to respond to the filing by prosecutors. The directives in Monday’s gag order will not be in effect during that time.

The special counsel’s office declined comment Friday night.

Chutkan handed down the gag order after a hearing on Monday where Smith’s team argued that a narrow order was needed to “protect the integrity of the trial and the jury pool.”

She formalized the order in a written decision Tuesday, finding that undisputed “testimony cited by the government demonstrates that when Defendant has publicly attacked individuals, including on matters related to this case, those individuals are consequently threatened and harassed.”

In a filing to the judge on Friday, Trump’s attorneys said her order “imposes an overbroad, content-based prior restraint on the leading Presidential candidate’s core political speech.”

They argued that Trump, who has pleaded not guilty to the charges against him in the case, would suffer “irreparable injury” to his First Amendment rights if the order was left in place while they go through the appeals process.

Chutkan had noted in her ruling that it doesn’t bar Trump from “criticizing the government generally, including the current administration or the Department of Justice,” or his claims that “his prosecution is politically motivated; or statements criticizing the campaign platforms or policies of Defendant’s current political rivals, such as former Vice President Pence.”

Trump’s attorneys said in their filing Friday that the gag order was too constraining.

“The witnesses that third parties listening to President Trump have supposedly intimidated—former Vice President Pence, former Attorney General Barr, and former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley—are extremely high-level public figures who have voluntarily entered the public arena and invited the cut and thrust of public debate by openly criticizing President Trump,” his lawyers argued.

This is not the first time Trump has been hit with a gag order.

The New York judge overseeing the civil fraud trial against Trump and his company imposed a narrower gag order prohibiting the former president from making comments or posting on social media about court staff after he suggested in a post online that the judge’s law clerk had a relationship with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

Trump took the post down, but the judge learned Thursday night that it was still on Trump’s campaign website. The judge fined Trump $5,000 and threatened to imprison him for any future violations, “whether intentional or unintentional.”

Attorneys for Trump, who has denied any wrongdoing in the fraud case, said the social media post about the law clerk was inadvertently left on the campaign website. A spokesperson for Schumer previously called Trump’s post “ridiculous, absurd and false,” adding that the senator does not know the clerk.

Daniel Barnes reported from Washington, Dareh Gregorian from New York.

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Daniel Barnes and Dareh Gregorian

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