Listen Live

Current Weather

US appeals court considers Trump gag order in election subversion case


By Mike Scarcella

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Donald Trump’s lawyers on Monday asked a federal appeals court to overturn a gag order that has prevented the former president from targeting some participants in a criminal case accusing him of illegally trying to overturn his 2020 election defeat.

“The order is unprecedented and it sets a terrible precedent on future restrictions on core political speech,” Trump’s lawyer D. John Sauer said at a hearing in Washington.

U.S. Judge Tanya Chutkan, who is overseeing the case, imposed the ban after she found that Trump’s public statements and social media posts could influence witnesses and lead to threats against lawyers and other public officials.

Trump, the frontrunner for the Republican nomination to challenge Democratic President Joe Biden in the 2024 U.S. election, has criticized the gag order as a constraint on his free speech rights.

A similar restriction in a separate civil business fraud case in New York was temporarily lifted by a state appeals court judge last week. Trump promptly resumed his attacks on a court clerk involved in the case.

In social media posts and presidential campaign appearances, Trump has said court officials and others involved in his legal woes are politically biased, leading to fears that his targets could face physical threats from his supporters.

The gag order in the federal case in Washington allows Trump and his lawyers to criticize the Justice Department, but they are not allowed to target prosecutors, court staff and other potential witnesses. It has been suspended during Trump’s appeal.

The case is set to go to trial in Washington in March 2024, during the height of the Republican nominating contest. Opinion polls show Trump leading his Republican rivals by a wide margin.

Trump is charged with conspiring to interfere with the official tally of the 2020 presidential race, which he lost to Biden. Trump has pleaded not guilty and has accused Biden’s administration of weaponizing the U.S. legal system against him.

The indictment by U.S. Special Counsel Jack Smith accuses Trump and his allies of promoting false claims the election was rigged, pressuring officials to alter the results and assembling fake slates of electors to try to wrest electoral votes from Biden.

Trump has also pleaded not guilty in three other criminal cases, including a Georgia case that also charges him with conspiring to overturn the election.

(Reporting by Mike Scarcella; writing by Andy Sullivan; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Will Dunham)

Brought to you by