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Judge reimposes gag order on Trump in federal election interference case

The judge presiding over Donald Trump's federal election interference case has reinstated a gag order on the former president.
Alex Wong
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Getty Images
The judge presiding over Donald Trump's federal election interference case has reinstated a gag order on the former president.

The judge presiding over Donald Trump's federal election interference case has reinstated a gag order on the former president.

U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan imposed the restrictionson Trump two weeks ago, barring him from making public statements targeting prosecutors, court staff and likely witnesses. Trump appealed, and asked that the gag be lifted as that appeal plays out in the courts.

Chutkan temporarily paused the restrictions to let the two sides brief her on their additional arguments. In her ruling, the judge said Trump is unlikely to win his appeal on the merits, and that the restrictions are necessary to protect the administration of justice.

"The First Amendment rights of participants in criminal proceedings must yield, when necessary, to the orderly administration of justice," the judge said in her order. "And contrary to Defendant's argument, the right to a fair trial is not his alone, but belongs also to the government and the public."

Trump, she said, fails to acknowledge evidence presented by the government that when the former president publicly attacked individuals, including on issues related to this case, those individuals have faced threats and harassment.

"The evidence is in the record," Chutkan wrote. "Defendant fails to acknowledge it."

The judge also rejected Trump's argument that the gag order is unconstitutionally vague, including its use of the term "targeting."

Chutkan pointed to two of Trump's social media posts to illustrate the sort of statements that are allowed and those that her order bars.

In the first one, made when the gag was in place, Trump asserts his innocence, claims his prosecution is politically motivated and accuses the Biden administration of being corrupt. Those statements, Chutkan writes, do not violate her order "targeting" certain individuals.

In the second one, posted when the restrictions were lifted, Trump lashes out at his last chief of staff, Mark Meadows, following a report that Meadows was granted immunity to testify before the grand jury.

This post, Chutkan says, "would almost certainly" violate the gag order because it "singles out a foreseeable witness for purposes of characterizing his potentially unfavorable testimony as a 'lie.'"

Trump's post "could readily be interpreted as an attempt to influence o prevent the witness's participation in this case," the order says.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Ryan Lucas
Ryan Lucas covers the Justice Department for NPR.