WASHINGTON (News21USA)– A federal appeals court will hear arguments Monday on whether a gag order should be reinstated against Donald Trump in the federal case accusing him of conspiring to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.
Prosecutors along with special counsel Jack Smith’s team will urge a three-judge panel of the Washington-based appeals court to reinstate an order prohibiting the former president from making inflammatory statements about lawyers in the case and potential witnesses.
Prosecutors say those restrictions are necessary to prevent Trump from undermining trust in the judicial system and intimidating people who might be called to testify against him. Defense attorneys have called the gag order an unconstitutional gagging of Trump’s free speech rights and say prosecutors have presented no evidence to support the idea that his words caused harm or made anyone feel threatened.
The gag order is one of many contentious issues being debated ahead of the historic trial in March 2024. Defense attorneys are also trying to have the case dismissed, arguing that Trump, as a former president, is immune from prosecution and is protected by the First Amendment against being impeached. The outcome of Monday’s arguments will not affect those constitutional claims, but will set parameters for what Trump, as a criminal defendant and leading presidential candidate, can and cannot say before the trial.
The order has had a dizzying track record in the courts since U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan imposed it last month in response to a request from prosecutors, who cited, among other comments, Trump’s repeated disparagement of Smith as “deranged.”
The judge lifted it days after entering it, giving Trump’s lawyers time to show why his words should not be restricted. But after Trump used that pause to post comments on social media that prosecutors said were intended to influence his former chief of staff from giving unfavorable testimony, Chutkan got her back on track.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit later lifted it when considering Trump’s appeal.
The judges hearing the case include Cornelia Pillard and Patricia Millett, both appointed by former President Barack Obama, and Brad Garcia, who joined the court earlier this year after being nominated by President Joe Biden.
The panel is not expected to rule immediately on Monday. If the justices rule against Trump, he will have the option of asking the full court to take up the matter. His lawyers have also indicated that they will request the participation of the Supreme Court.
The four-count indictment in Washington is one of four criminal cases Trump faces as he seeks to retake the White House in 2024.
He has been accused in Florida, also by Smith’s team, of illegally hoarding dozens of classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago property. He has also been charged in New York state court in connection with hush payments to a porn actress who alleged an extramarital affair with him, and in Georgia with conspiring to subvert the 2020 presidential election in that state.