Appeals court reinstates Trump gag order in J6 case, but rules Trump can now speak freely about Jack Smith

Dec 8, 2023 | Political News

A federal appeals court has reinstated a gag order against 2024 GOP frontrunner Donald Trump in the January 6 case brought forth against him, but narrows the order that was initially placed on him by US District Court Tanya Chutkan.

“The First Amendment unquestionably affords political speech robust protection,” wrote Judge Patricia Millett in the unanimous three-judge ruling, according to the Washington Post.

“But there is another fundamental constitutional interest at stake here. The existence of a political campaign or political speech does not alter the court’s historical commitment or obligation to ensure the fair administration of justice in criminal cases.”

The ruling upholds a ban on Trump speaking about the participation of witnesses, but removes from the order special counsel Jack Smith as someone off limits.

Commentary by attorneys in the case, court staff, and family members, are prohibited “if those statements are made with the intent to materially interfere with, or to cause others to materially interfere with, counsel’s or staff’s work in this criminal case, or with the knowledge that such interference is highly likely to result.”

Chutkan issued the gag order against Trump in October, writing that “All interested parties in this matter, including the parties and their counsel, are prohibited from making any public statements, or directing others to make any public statements, that target (1) the Special Counsel prosecuting this case or his staff, (2) defense counsel or their staff, (3) any of this court's staff or other supporting personnel; or (4) any reasonably foreseeable witness or the substance of their testimony.”

The order was quickly appealed by the Trump team and paused, only to be reinstated by Chutkan again later in the month.

The ACLU filed an amicus brief in late October siding with Trump, stating that “The obvious and unprecedented public interest in this prosecution, as well as the widespread political speech that it has generated and will continue to generate, only underscores the need to apply the most stringent First Amendment standard to a restraint on Defendant’s speech rights.”