Judges signal they may loosen Trump gag order in federal election interference case

A gag order against former President Donald Trump in a federal election interference case is being weighed by a three-judge panel after they heard arguments in a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., on Monday.

During the two-and-a-half hours of arguments, the appeals court judges appeared skeptical of both sides on whether to reinstate an order from a trial judge that prevented Trump from making inflammatory comments against prosecutors, potential witnesses and court staff.

Cecil VanDevender, a lawyer with Special Counsel Jack Smith’s office, argued that a gag order is necessary to prevent intimidation and threats against participants in the case where Trump is accused of scheming to overturn the 2020 election.

Meanwhile, Trump lawyer John Sauer urged the court to revoke the order.

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The court did not immediately rule, but the outcome of Monday’s arguments will set parameters on what Trump, as both a criminal defendant and the leading candidate for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, can and cannot say as the trial date nears. 

The judges hearing the case include Cornelia Pillard and Patricia Millett, both appointees of former President Barack Obama, and Brad Garcia, who joined the bench earlier this year after being nominated by President Biden.

U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan first imposed the partial gag order Oct. 17, blocking Trump from making statements targeting Smith, his staff, witnesses and court personnel. 

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The order was later put on hold pending a previous appeal from the former president before being reinstated by Chutkan on Oct. 29.

The order does not prevent Trump from airing general complaints about the case, and Chutkan has said the former president is still allowed to assert his claims of innocence and that the case is politically motivated.

Trump has continued to deny any wrongdoing in the case, and has argued that it is part of an effort to prevent him from winning the presidency in 2024. He has also sharply criticized those involved in the case, including Smith, whom he often refers to as “deranged.”

Fox News’ Jake Gibson, Brandon Gillespie and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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