U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan imposed a gag order on former President Donald Trump in mid-October in his federal 2020 election interference case but then voluntarily imposed a stay on her own ruling in order to allow Trump time to appeal that decision before it took effect.
Chutkan has now lifted that stay and allowed the gag order to go into effect after Trump issued critical commentary over the weekend about his former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, according to the Daily Wire.
Trump's comments came in response to reports that his loyal former adviser Meadows had been flipped into becoming a cooperative witness against Trump by Special Counsel Jack Smith. Trump also harshly criticized Smith, which would further violate Chutkan's order prohibiting his criticism of court staffers, prosecutors, and potential witnesses.
CBS News reported last week that Meadows is "extensively cooperating" with Special Counsel Smith and has "provided lengthy and in-depth testimony" to a grand jury on multiple occasions and has similarly provided prosecutors with "reams of documents, including text messages," in regard to former President Trump's efforts to overturn and reverse the 2020 election results.
That cooperation was said to have come in exchange for a grant of immunity, but that unconfirmed claim has been disputed by Meadows' attorney.
In reaction to that news, Trump took to his Truth Social account and posted a lengthy diatribe about that development -- which also critiqued Smith as "deranged" -- which was viewed by some as an attempt to intimidate or coerce Meadows against any further testimony as a witness against him.
In a nine-page order issued on Sunday, Judge Chutkan announced that she had denied a motion by former President Trump's attorneys in opposition to the gag order and decided to lift her own temporary administrative stay, which allowed the gag order to go into effect even as Trump's appeal on First Amendment grounds remains pending.
"As the court has explained, the First Amendment rights of participants in criminal proceedings must yield, when necessary, to the orderly administration of justice -- a principle reflected in Supreme Court precedent, the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, and the Local Criminal Rule," Chutkan wrote. "And contrary to Defendant’s argument, the right to a fair trial is not his alone, but belongs also to the government and the public."
"Defendant’s repeated appeals to broad First Amendment values therefore ignore that the court -- pursuant to its obligation to protect the integrity of these proceedings -- recognized those values but, in balancing them against the potential prejudice resulting from certain kinds of statements, found them outweighed," she continued.
Chutkan went on to knock down as incorrect or inapplicable each of the various arguments that Trump's attorneys had raised in opposition to the gag order and, citing the referenced Truth Social post about Meadows, accused Trump of engaging in prohibited "targeting" of a potential witness, to say nothing of his continued disparagement of Special Counsel Smith and the prosecutorial efforts arrayed against him.
In response to the reimposition of the gag order, former President Trump wrote Sunday on Truth Social, "I have just learned that the very Biased, Trump Hating Judge in D.C., who should have RECUSED herself due to her blatant and open loathing of your favorite President, ME, has reimposed a GAG ORDER which will put me at a disadvantage against my prosecutorial and political opponents."
"This order, according to many legal scholars, is unthinkable! It illegally and unconstitutionally takes away my First Amendment Right of Free Speech, in the middle of my campaign for President, where I am leading against BOTH Parties in the Polls," he added. "Few can believe this is happening, but I will appeal. How can they tell the leading candidate that he, and only he, is seriously restricted from campaigning in a free and open manner? It will not stand!"
The Daily Wire reported that a statement was also released on Monday by Trump campaign spokesman Steven Cheung, who said, "The American people have the right to hear from President Trump, the leading candidate in the 2024 Presidential election, and no court or prosecutor can be allowed to commit election interference."
"President Trump is Constitutionally entitled to speak the truth to all Americans as he fights these hoaxes and as he marches on to defeat Crooked Joe Biden and Radical Democrats," the spokesman added. "The gag order in question is so egregious, that even the ACLU agrees that it has to go. President Trump will never stop fighting for our Democracy and our Constitution."