A federal appeals court signaled that it would affirm but may narrow a gag order imposed on former President Trump in the case alleging he conspired to overturn his 2020 election loss. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit expressed skepticism about the argument from Trump’s lawyer that the gag order infringed on the former president’s First Amendment rights and “core political speech.” Judges indicated that they may could reduce the order’s scope by allowing Trump to attack special counsel Jack Smith, who is overseeing the federal prosecutions of the former president, while maintaining a ban on criticizing witnesses and court staff, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Trump’s lawyers and Smith’s team are clashing over a limited gag order issued by Judge Tanya Chutkan, who barred the former president from making public statements that “target” Smith or his staff, along with court staff and potential witnesses in the election-subversion case. It left Trump free to criticize the judge as well as the Justice Department and the Biden administration more broadly. Judges on Monday suggested that a gag order could be imposed as a preventive measure to protect people involved in the case from threats or harassment. They said the government had cited a dynamic in which certain people attacked by Trump are then harassed by others. "As this trial approaches, the atmosphere is going to be increasingly tense,” Garcia said. “Why does the district court have to wait and see and wait for the threats to come? Rather than taking reasonable action in advance?” Trump has assailed the gag order as unconstitutional, condemning it as an unprecedented censoring of a political candidate. Trump’s lawyer D. John Sauer argued it would be improper to restrict Trump’s speech because it “might someday inspire some random third party to engage in some action that might result in harassment or threats to witnesses.”