Watch CBS News

Appeals court pauses Trump gag order in 2020 election interference case

Washington — A three-judge appeals court panel paused the federal gag order that partially limited former president Donald Trump's speech ahead of his federal 2020 election interference trial in Washington, D.C., according to a court ruling filed Friday. 

The ruling administratively and temporarily stays Judge Tanya Chutkan's decision to bar Trump from publicly targeting court staff, potential witnesses and members of special counsel Jack Smith's prosecutorial team, a ruling Trump asked the higher court to put on hold. Friday's order is not a decision on the merits of the gag order Chutkan issued last month, but is meant to give the appeals court more time to consider the arguments in the case. 

Judges Patricia Millett, an Obama appointee, Cornelia Pillard, another Obama appointee and Bradley Garcia, a Biden appointee, granted the former president's request for an emergency pause on the order less than 24 hours after Trump's attorneys filed a motion for a stay. 

The panel also ordered a briefing schedule with oral arguments before the appeals court to take place on Nov. 20 in Washington, D.C. 

Chutkan's order, Trump's lawyers alleged in their Thursday filing, is "muzzling President Trump's core political speech during an historic Presidential campaign." His attorneys called Judge Chutkan's recently reinstated gag order unprecedented, sweeping and "viewpoint based." 

The Justice Department opposed Trump's request and has consistently pushed the courts to keep the gag order in place. Judge Chutkan denied a previous request from the former president that she stay her own ruling, but this is now the second time the gag order has been administratively stayed —  paused so courts can consider the legal question — after Chutkan herself paused her own ruling for a few days. 

Smith's team originally asked the judge to restrict the former president's speech during pre-trial litigation, citing what prosecutors alleged were the potential dangers his language posed to the administration of justice and the integrity of the legal proceedings.

Chutkan only partially granted the government request, barring Trump from publicly targeting court staff, federal prosecutors by name, and potential witnesses in the case. The judge said at the time her order was not based on whether she liked the comments in question, but whether they could imperil the future trial. Trump, Chutkan said, was being treated like any other defendant. She said the president would be permitted to say what he wanted about the Justice Department and Biden administration and to broadly criticize the case against him. 

The special counsel charged Trump with four counts related to his alleged efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election earlier this year. He pleaded not guilty to all the charges, denied wrongdoing and has accused Smith's team and Judge Chutkan herself of being politically biased against him. 

But in numerous hearings, Chutkan has demanded that politics not enter her courtroom and said her gag order was not about whether she agreed with Trump's speech, but whether it posed a threat to a fair trial in the future. 

The trial in the case is currently set for March 2024

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.