Federal appeals court pauses Trump gag order in blow to Jack Smith

An appeals court victory set the stage for an expedited showdown between former President Donald Trump and special counsel Jack Smith over gag orders.

Part of the perceived political persecution of the president has remained the alleged effort to silence him on the campaign trail through gag orders related to his federal indictments. Friday, an all-Democrat panel of judges made ready to settle the matter the Monday before Thanksgiving by placing a stay on U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan’s order.

Presiding over Trump’s Washington, D.C. case over alleged 2020 election interference and his actions on Jan. 6, 2021, Chutkan had imposed her gag order against the president on Oct. 17 before it was reimposed on Oct. 29 in the wake of the initial appeal. Following a Thursday filing with the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the panel ruled the “order be 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 panel made clear.

With the stated aim of the gag order being to prohibit the president from “making any public statements, or directing others to make any public statements, that target,” Smith or his team, along with “any reasonably foreseeable witness or the substance of their testimony,” the president had remained adamant that the order inhibited his ability to campaign for a return to the White House.

“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,” Thursday’s filing said as it accused the gag order of “muzzling President Trump’s core political speech during an historic Presidential campaign.”

“Given the Gag Order’s extraordinary nature, one would expect an extraordinary justification for it. Yet none exists,” it was further argued. “President Trump has made months of public statements about this case, but the Department of Justice (‘the prosecution’) submitted no evidence of any actual or imminent threat to the administration of justice. Instead, when asked about the supposed threat to the case, the prosecution admitted, ‘of course this prejudice is speculative.'”

Trump Appeal of Limited Gag… by Brett Meiselas

The same three-judge panel comprised of Judge Bradley Garcia, appointed by President Joe Biden, and Judges Patricia Millett and Cornelia Pillard, appointed by then-President Barack Obama, ordered “that this case be scheduled for oral arguments before this panel on November 20, 2023, at 9:30 a.m.,” at which point a decision will be made about the future of the gag order.

“Appellant should raise all issues and arguments in the opening brief. The court ordinarily will not consider issues and arguments raised for the first time in the reply brief,” they added.

At the time of this posting, Trump had not reacted to the stay, but he had gone on record after the gag order had been reimposed, writing on Truth Social, “The Corrupt Biden Administration just took away my First Amendment Right To Free Speech. NOT CONSTITUTIONAL! MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN…”


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Kevin Haggerty


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