On Monday, partially granting a request from Special Counsel Jack Smith, D.C. District Judge Tanya Chutkan imposed a limited gag order on former President Donald Trump and others in the 2020 election case.
Just one day later on Tuesday, Trump's attorneys filed a notice of appeal in opposition to the judge's order as it is viewed as an unconstitutional restriction on his right to free speech, Fox News reported.
"In order to safeguard the integrity of these proceedings, it is necessary to impose certain restrictions on public statements by interested parties," Judge Chutkan wrote in the three-page order issued Monday. "Undisputed testimony cited by the government demonstrates that when Defendant has publicly attacked individuals, including on matters related to this case, those individuals are consequently threatened and harassed."
"Since his indictment, and even after the government filed the instant motion, Defendant has continued to make similar statements attacking individuals involved in the judicial process, including potential witnesses, prosecutors, and court staff," she continued. "Defendant has made those statements to national audiences using language communicating not merely that he believes the process to be illegitimate, but also that particular individuals involved in it are liars, or 'thugs,' or deserve death."
As such, Chutkan determined, "The court finds that such statements pose a significant and immediate risk that (1) witnesses will be intimidated or otherwise unduly influenced by the prospect of being themselves targeted for harassment or threats; and (2) attorneys, public servants, and other court staff will themselves become targets for threats and harassment."
She further rejected as "untenable" the claims from Trump's attorneys that his speech should not be limited due to his status as the front-running presidential candidate, and wrote, "The bottom line is that equal justice under law requires the equal treatment of criminal defendants; Defendant’s
presidential candidacy cannot excuse statements that would otherwise intolerably jeopardize these proceedings."
As for the actual limitations imposed by Judge Chutkan's gag order, it restricts former President Trump and others from making 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."
What the gag order does not pertain to, however, are Trump's critiques of President Joe Biden, his administration, the Justice Department, and the "government generally." Trump is still also allowed to publicly proclaim his innocence, to assert that the prosecution is "politically motivated," or criticize the policies and positions of his political rivals who may also be potential witnesses against him.
How that gag order will be enforced against Trump if, or perhaps more likely when, he violates it is a question that remains unanswered, though typically penalties begin with a warning followed by fines and, if necessary, a contempt charge and jail time.
An appeal of Judge Chutkan's gag order seemed inevitable based on the statement released in its immediate wake by the Trump campaign, which said through a spokesperson, "Today’s decision is an absolute abomination and another partisan knife stuck in the heart of our Democracy by Crooked Joe Biden, who was granted the right to muzzle his political opponent, the leading candidate for the Presidency in 2024, and the most popular political leader in America, President Donald J. Trump."
"President Trump will continue to fight for our Constitution, the American people’s right to support him, and to keep our country free of the chains of weaponized and targeted law enforcement," the statement added.
As if on cue, NBC News reported Tuesday that Trump's attorneys wasted little time in filing a formal notice of appeal with the D.C. Circuit Court.
The lawyers had previously argued that a gag order would be an unconstitutional muzzling of the free political speech of the leading opposition candidate to the incumbent president -- an argument largely rejected by Chutkan that could potentially find more favor with an appeals court panel.
Meanwhile, per Fox News, Trump will likely also seek to challenge the validity of a similar but arguably even more narrow gag order imposed on him in the New York civil fraud case that threatens to undermine and destroy his real estate-based business empire at the hands of an overtly biased judge and state attorney general.