Donald Trump granted partial gag order relief by the US Court of Appeals - Hindustan Times
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Donald Trump granted partial gag order relief by the US Court of Appeals

Dec 09, 2023 06:35 AM IST

The US Court of Appeals' decision modifying the gag order on Donald Trump, allowing criticism on certain aspects while upholding restrictions to safeguard trial.

The US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit has issued a ruling that partially modifies the gag order placed on former President Donald Trump.

Former US President Donald Trump, the frontrunner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, and his two eldest sons are accused of inflating the value of their real estate assets to receive more favorable bank loans and insurance terms. (Photo by TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP)(AFP)
Former US President Donald Trump, the frontrunner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, and his two eldest sons are accused of inflating the value of their real estate assets to receive more favorable bank loans and insurance terms. (Photo by TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP)(AFP)

The court’s decision allows Trump to express criticism towards the special counsel, the judge, the Justice Department, the Biden administration, and the political nature of the case concerning his attempts to overturn the 2020 election results. However, Trump is still prohibited from making disparaging remarks about potential trial witnesses, court staff, the special counsel’s staff, and their family members.

The ruling, delivered on Friday, aims to balance Trump’s First Amendment rights with the need to maintain the integrity of the judicial process. The appellate court’s 68-page opinion wrote, “Mr Trump is a former president and current candidate for the presidency. But Mr Trump is also an indicted criminal defendant, and he must stand trial in a courtroom under the same procedures that govern all other criminal defendants.”

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This latest decision represents another setback for Trump regarding the gag order, which was initially imposed by US District Judge Tanya Chutkan in October. The order came after prosecutors raised concerns that Trump’s public statements and social media activity could potentially intimidate witnesses slated to testify at his trial.

The former President’s legal team is expected to challenge the appellate court’s ruling by appealing to the US Supreme Court. A spokesperson for Trump stated, “President Trump will continue to fight for the First Amendment rights of tens of millions of Americans to hear from the leading presidential candidate at the height of his campaign.”

The three circuit judges, all appointed by Democratic presidents, carefully crafted the ruling to permit Trump to voice his opinions on the case’s political aspects while safeguarding individuals involved in the case from becoming targets of his rhetoric. Specifically, the judges adjusted the original gag order to allow Trump to criticize individuals related to the post-2020 election events, provided he does not attack their trial testimony.

What was the court's assessment of Trump?

The court was clear in its assessment that Trump’s persistent and inflammatory statements posed a real threat to the fair administration of justice. The judges noted that such remarks could deter potential witnesses from providing candid testimony and disrupt the duties of court personnel.

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The judges dismissed all three of Trump’s arguments for completely lifting the gag order. They rejected the notion that Trump’s speech could only be restricted after it had already caused harm or influenced a witness, underscoring that the purpose of a protective order is to prevent such harm from occurring in the first place.

The court also dismissed Trump’s “heckler’s veto” argument, which suggested that the gag order was imposed merely due to concerns about third-party reactions. The judges affirmed the court’s responsibility to prevent external threats to the judicial process.

The judges refuted Trump’s claim that his political speech held greater importance than the criminal trial proceedings. The court maintained that the presence of a political campaign does not diminish the judiciary’s historical commitment to ensuring justice is served fairly and impartially.

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