Trump is prohibited from disparaging any prosecutors, potential witnesses, or court personnel involved in the case in public.
Judges on the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia questioned whether Trump’s charged rhetoric would jeopardize the credibility of his upcoming trial as Trump attorney D. John Sauer argued on Monday that the order violates the First Amendment.
Judge Cornelia Pillard told Sauer, “I don’t hear you giving the interests in a fair trial any weight at all.”
Trump’s appeal against the gag order imposed by US District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan, who is in charge of the case, was heard by three judges, including Pillard.
According to Chutkan, Trump or ’s attorneys’ public statements criticizing prosecutors, judges, and potential witnesses could sway witnesses and prompt threats against those involved in the case.
Chutkan, however, gave Trump permission to “criticize herself, President Biden, and the Justice Department.” According to The New York Times, she also gave him the right to claim that the prosecution was partisan retaliation against him.
During the two-hour hearing, Sauer remarked that the order “is unprecedented and sets a terrible precedent for future restrictions on core political speech.”
Trump has attacked officials in a number of criminal and civil cases he faces as the front-runner for the Republican nomination to challenge Democratic President Joe Biden in 2024. He has referred to US Special Counsel Jack Smith as a “thug” and “deranged lunatic” for filing the federal election-related charges.
Trump’s comments regarding accusers and witnesses have weighed the need for a fair trial the following year against his right to free speech.
During Trump’s appeal, the gag order was put on hold. In addition to all three other criminal cases, Trump has entered a not guilty plea.
Cecil VanDevender, a lawyer for the Department of Justice, was questioned by the judges about how broad the order was written.
Judge Patricia Millett, a Democratic judicial appointee like the other two on the panel, said, “We need to use careful scalpel here.”
According to VanDevender, the order still permits Trump to present broad justifications for the case’s legitimacy.
VanDevender claimed that he could say things like, “This is a politically motivated prosecution brought by my political opponent,” “The Department of Justice is corrupt,” and “I will be vindicated at trial.”