Federal Judge Tanya Chutkan has reversed course on the gag order she enforced on former President and 2024 GOP front-runner Donald Trump on Sunday, saying that the order will remain in place while it is under appeal.
“The First Amendment rights of participants in criminal proceedings must yield, when necessary, to the orderly administration of justice,” Chutkan said.
The gag order was put into effect on October 16, but was quickly appealed by Trump's lawyers, who said that the order is not merely a violation of Trump's First Amendment rights, but is also the silencing of Biden's only real political opposition. When Chutkan went along with the DOJ's ask for Trump to be silenced, she said that Trump’s rights did not mean he could “launch a pretrial smear campaign” against those who were prosecuting and trying him.
Chutkan reimposed it, saying that the “Defendant has not made a strong showing that he is likely to succeed on the merits. As the court has explained, First Amendment rights of participants in criminal proceedings must yield, when necessary, to the orderly administration of justice.”
Chutkan cited precedent in her order, but there is absolutely no precedent for the administration of one president to be launching a criminal prosecution of a previous president while that previous president is challenging the current president in a hotly contested national presidential election.
The order reads, in part, that Trump is “prohibited from making any public statements, or directing others to make any public statements, that target the Special Counsel prosecuting this case or his staff, defense counsel or their staff, any of this court's staff or supporting personnel, or any reasonably foreseeable witness or the substance of their testimony.”
“No other defendant would be allowed to do so, and I’m not going to allow it in this case,” Chutkan said.
“I'll be the only politician in history that runs with a gag order where I'm not allowed to criticize people,” Trump said after it was slapped on him in mid-October.
The ACLU also came out against the order, saying “Reading the order, Defendant cannot possibly know what he is permitted to say, and what he is not.”
The order limits what Trump can say publicly about the conspiracy case leveled against him by political opponent Joe Biden's Department of Justice. The case, being tried by special prosecutor Jack Smith, alleges that Trump committed conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, obstruction of and attempt to obstruct an official proceeding, and conspiracy against rights. Trump has pleaded not guilty.
The charges against Trump stem from the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election, specifically from the events that unfolded at the Capitol building on January 6, 2020. On that day, Trump spoke at a scheduled rally at the nearby Ellipse. It was to be the last rally of his presidency. Supporters broke off from that rally and marched to Congress in protest of the procedural certification of election results that was due to take place there. The protest turned to a riot as people entered the building, leading to the evacuation of Congress while the building was cleared of protesters.
One woman died on that day as a result of the riot after being shot by Capitol Police. The shooting officer, Michael Byrd, defended his action of shooting an unarmed woman on news programs across national television. The disrupted proceedings were resumed a few hours later.
The Department of Justice believes Trump is to blame for the riot, and President Joe Biden has said as much in the ensuing years. It is for this reason that they have sought to silence Trump for speaking out in his own defense, or to the detriment of his accusers.