Appeals court freezes gag order against Trump in federal election subversion case and will hear oral arguments this month

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Originally Published: 03 NOV 23 17:23 ET
Updated: 03 NOV 23 18:44 ET

(CNN) — A federal appeals court on Friday temporarily froze the limited gag order issued against Donald Trump in the former president’s election subversion criminal case in Washington, DC, allowing him to again speak freely with criticism of possible witnesses in the case.

In a brief order, a three-judge panel at the US DC Circuit Court of Appeals said they were pausing the gag order issued by District Judge Tanya Chutkan to give them more time to consider Trump’s request to pause the order while his appeal plays out before the court.

The appellate judges – Patricia Millett and Cornelia Pillard, both Barack Obama appointees, and Brad Garcia, a Joe Biden appointee – said they would fast-track Trump’s appeal of the gag order and hear arguments in the matter on November 20.

Trump has been attempting to hold off further restrictions to his ability to speak publicly since his arrest. Justice Department prosecutors have so far successfully argued his speech should be curtailed because of how often Trump posts on social media about possible witnesses in his case, which could lead to potential harassment or hurt their credibility among his jury pool.

Chutkan had ruled against Trump’s lawyers, saying the gag order was legal for the former president as a criminal defendant, even while he challenged it on constitutional grounds at the appeals court.

After Chutkan temporarily froze the gag order, Trump quickly resumed publishing allegedly intimidating posts about prosecutors and potential witnesses in the case on social media, prosecutors from special counsel Jack Smith’s office told the judge when they urged her to reinstate the restrictions.

In reinstating the order earlier this week, Chutkan noted that one such post targeting Trump’s former chief of staff Mark Meadows would have “almost certainly” violated the gag order had it not been paused.

Now, the appeals court will consider whether it will grant relief to the former president in the matter.

“The prosecution’s request for a Gag Order bristles with hostility to President Trump’s viewpoint and his relentless criticism of the government—including of the prosecution itself,” Trump’s attorneys told the appeals court in a filing Thursday. “The Gag Order embodies this unconstitutional hostility to President Trump’s viewpoint. It should be immediately stayed.”

The order restricts Trump’s ability to publicly target court personnel, potential witnesses, or the special counsel and his staff. The order did not impose restrictions on disparaging comments about Washington, DC, – where the jury will take place – or certain comments about the Justice Department at large, both of which the government requested.

This story has been updated with additional details.

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