After 2 hours and 20 minutes of oral arguments, the three-judge panel of the DC Circuit Court of Appeals appears inclined to restore the limited gag order in former President Donald Trump’s federal election subversion case, but may loosen some restrictions so he can more directly criticize special counsel Jack Smith.
None of the judges embraced Trump’s claims that the gag order should be wiped away for good because it is a “categorically unprecedented” violation of his free speech rights.
Yet they also posed sharp questions to prosecutors as they tried to find the boundary of where intense campaign-trail rhetoric crosses the line of undermining a criminal case.
The limited gag order from district Judge Tanya Chutkan – which was temporarily frozen by the appeals panel when they agreed to hear the case — restricts Trump’s ability to directly attack Smith, members of his team, court staff or potential trial witnesses. He is allowed to criticize the Justice Department, proclaim his innocence, can say that the case is “politically motivated.”
The appellate judges, who are all Democratic appointees, heard the case on an expedited schedule and are expected to issue a ruling soon.