Appeals Court Upholds, but Narrows Gag Order on Trump in Washington CaseBy Polityk | 09/12/2023 | Повідомлення, Політика
A federal appeals court in Washington largely upheld a gag order on Donald Trump in his 2020 election interference case on Friday, but narrowed the restrictions on his speech to allow the former president to criticize the special counsel who brought the case.
The three-judge panel’s ruling modifies the gag order, permitting the Republican 2024 presidential front-runner to make disparaging comments about special counsel Jack Smith, but it reimposes limits on what he can say about known or reasonably foreseeable witnesses in the case and about court staff and other lawyers.
The unanimous ruling is mostly a win for Smith’s team, with the judges agreeing with prosecutors that Trump’s often-incendiary comments about participants in the case can have a damaging practical impact and rejecting claims by defense attorneys that restrictions on the ex-president’s speech amount to an unconstitutional muzzling. It lays out fresh parameters about what Trump can and cannot say about the case as he both prepares for a March trial and campaigns to reclaim the White House.
“Mr. Trump’s documented pattern of speech and its demonstrated real-time, real-world consequences pose a significant and imminent threat to the functioning of the criminal trial process in this case,” Judge Patricia Millett wrote for the court. She noted that many of the targets of Trump’s verbal jabs “have been subjected to a torrent of threats and intimidation from his supporters.”
The case accuses Trump of plotting with his Republican allies to subvert the will of voters in a desperate bid to stay in power in the run-up to the Capitol riot by his supporters on Jan. 6, 2021. It is scheduled to go to trial in March in Washington’s federal court, just blocks away from the Capitol.
Friday’s opinion says that though Trump has a constitutional right to free speech and is a former president and current candidate, “he is also an indicted criminal defendant, and he must stand trial in a courtroom under the same procedures that govern all other criminal defendants.”
The appeals court also said that a comment on court staff, other lawyers or their family members was off-limits “to the extent it is made with either the intent to materially interfere with their work or the knowledge that such interference is highly likely to result.”
In a social media post responding to the ruling, Trump said his team would appeal, and he complained anew about restrictions on his speech.
“In other words, people can speak violently and viciously against me, or attack me in any form, but I am not allowed to respond, in kind,” he said. “What is becoming of our First Amendment, what is becoming of our Country?”
The special counsel has separately charged Trump in Florida with illegally hoarding classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago estate after he left the White House following his 2020 election loss to Democrat Joe Biden. That case is set for trial next May, though the judge has signaled that the date might be postponed.
Trump has denied any wrongdoing and has claimed the cases against him are part of a politically motivated effort to keep him from returning to the White House.