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Trump asks appeals court to pause gag order in federal election interference case


Former President Donald Trump has asked an appeals court to lift a gag order that prohibits him from making statements about potential witnesses or disparaging comments about the prosecutors involved in the federal election interference case against him.

His attorneys argued in a filing Thursday that the order violated the rights of Trump “and over 100 million Americans who listen to him” and dismissed as “baseless” concerns that a gag order was needed for the proper administration of justice.

“President Trump’s viewpoint and modes of expression resonate powerfully with tens of millions of Americans,” wrote D. John Sauer, one of three new appellate lawyers Trump added to his legal team last month. “The prosecution’s request for a Gag Order bristles with hostility to President Trump’s viewpoint and his relentless criticism of the government—including of the prosecution itself.”

“The Gag Order embodies this unconstitutional hostility to President Trump’s viewpoint. It should be immediately stayed,” his lawyers wrote.

Trump asked for a ruling by Nov. 10 and requested a pause on the gag order until the appeals court rules. He also indicated that he might pursue matters with the Supreme Court if things don’t go his way.

“If the Court denies this motion, President Trump requests that the Court extend its administrative stay for seven days to allow him to seek relief from the U.S. Supreme Court,” his attorneys wrote.

U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan of Washington, D.C., the presiding judge in the case, ended a temporary pause last month on the order barring Trump, and all parties, from making or reposting any statements that publicly targeted special counsel Jack Smith or his staff.

The pause was meant to allow Trump’s defense team to pursue an appeal of Chutkan’s ruling that stopped short of imposing restrictions on Trump’s statements criticizing the government or the Justice Department broadly.

Federal prosecutors in Smith’s office had argued the gag order was necessary to ensure fairness in the case, accusing Trump of “publicly maligning witnesses and very intentionally commenting on the specific topics of their potential testimony at trial,” on social media and in interviews.

A spokesperson for Smith’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday night.

Joanna Swanson

Joanna Swanson is Europe correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Brussels covering politics, culture, business, climate change, society, economies and inclusive tech. With specific focus in breaking news, she has covered some of the world's most significant stories.