Gag order against Trump in Jan. 6 case put on hold by appellate court

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Former president Donald Trump is again free to disparage the prosecutors, witnesses and court staffers involved in his federal election obstruction case in D.C. — for now.

A federal appeals court put a judge’s gag order against Trump on hold while it considers his claim that the restrictions violate his First Amendment rights. Briefs from both sides are due over the next three weeks. The panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit deciding the case is made up of two appointees of President Barack Obama and one appointee of President Biden.

In a filing Thursday night, Trump argued that the limitations on his speech as ordered by Judge Tanya S. Chutkan were too vague and that concern that his words would lead to harassment and intimidation was merely speculative.

“The prosecution produced no evidence that any prosecutor or witness had been harassed or threatened after any of these posts, nor any evidence that any individual had felt intimidated,” his attorneys wrote.

Chutkan herself has been the target of a death threat from a Trump supporter, as prosecutors pointed out in arguing for limits on Trump’s speech. But she did not include herself in the gag order, only her staff. In imposing the restrictions on Trump, Chutkan said she was concerned by the fact that in the past, people the former president singled out on social media faced similar threats.

Chutkan briefly lifted her own order last week because of Trump’s appeal. But she restored the order days later after concluding that it was unlikely to succeed and that no other measures could protect the integrity of the trial and its participants. Just after the order went back into effect, Trump called likely witness and his former attorney general William P. Barr “gutless” on social media. Since then he has focused his attacks on Biden and the Justice Department generally, which is allowed under Chutkan’s order.

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