Trump’s gag order request faces mixed reception in US court | News

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Trump’s lawyer argues that the order violates free speech while judges say his rhetoric could threaten the integrity of the upcoming trial.

US appeals court judges have expressed skepticism about Donald Trump’s bid to overturn a gag order placed on the former president in a federal criminal case in which he is accused of he illegally tried to reverse his case in the 2020 election.

It prohibits Trump from publicly disparaging prosecutors, potential witnesses or court personnel involved in the case.

Trump’s attorney D John Sauer argued Monday that the order violates the US Constitution’s First Amendment right to free speech as judges on the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia asked would Trump’s alleged rhetoric threaten the integrity of his upcoming trial.

“I don’t hear you giving any weight to the interests of a fair trial,” Judge Cornelia Pillard told Sauer.

Pillard is one of three judges who heard Trump’s appeal of the gag order imposed by US District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan, who is presiding over the case.

Chutkan ruled that public statements by Trump or his lawyers criticizing prosecutors, court staff and witnesses could potentially influence witnesses and lead to threats against people who was involved in the case.

But Chutkan allowed Trump to “criticize the Department of Justice, President Biden and herself. She also allowed him to insist that the accusation against him was a partisan vendetta,” the New York Times said.

“The order is unprecedented, and it sets a terrible precedent for future restrictions on major political speech,” Sauer said at the two-hour hearing.

Trump, who is the front-runner for the Republican nomination to challenge Democratic President Joe Biden in the 2024 election, has attacked officials involved in a range of criminal and civil cases facing him. He has called US Special Counsel Jack Smith, who brought the federal election-related charges, “a deranged lunatic” and a “thug”.

Trump’s comments about prosecutors and witnesses have pitted his right to free speech against the need for a fair trial next year.

The gag order was suspended during Trump’s appeal. Trump has pleaded not guilty in the case as well as the other three criminal cases.

The justices asked Justice Department attorney Cecil VanDevender if the order was written too broadly.

“We have to use a careful scalpel here,” said Judge Patricia Millett, a Democratic judicial appointee like the other two on the panel.

VanDevender said the order still allows Trump to make broad arguments about the integrity of the case.

“He can say, ‘This is a political accusation brought by my political opponent,’ ‘The Department of Justice is corrupt,’ and ‘I will be proven at trial,’ – the stuff that’s all,” VanDevender said.

The judges did not say when they will rule.

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