U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan, an appointee of former President Barack Obama, lifted her temporary stay after Trump publicly took aim at Mark Meadows, Trump’s former White House chief of staff who is reportedly cooperating with the special counsel.
“As this court has explained, the First Amendment rights of participants in criminal proceedings must yield, when necessary, to the orderly administration of justice,” Chutkan said, adding later, “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.”
Chutkan issued a narrow gag order against Trump earlier this month, restricting him from chastising prosecutors, court staff, and potential witnesses. The judge temporarily lifted the gag order at the request of Trump’s lawyers while they pursued an appeal.
But prosecutors soon urged her to reinstate the order, saying Trump went back to the sort of “targeting” it would prevent. As examples, the filing cited an “unmistakable and threatening message” on social media about Meadows possibly testifying in exchange for immunity against prosecution and comments he made about his former chief of staff to reporters in New York. Trump also called Smith “deranged.”
In her new opinion, Chutkan rejected claims by the defendant that her order was “unconstitutionally vague” and determined that appeals for “broad” First Amendment rights were outweighed by the need to “protect the integrity” of the proceedings. Beyond restoring the stay, the judge also denied Trump’s motion for a long-term stay of the gag order.
With a post to his Truth Social platform, Trump vowed to appeal while accusing Chutkan of bias and saying the judge should have recused herself from the case. “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!” Trump said.
Trump’s campaign spokesman Steven Cheung said the judge’s order amounts to “election interference.”
“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,” Cheung said in a Monday statement. “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 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.”
Trump is facing four criminal cases, two of which are being spearheaded by Smith: the one in which Trump is accused of trying to overturn the results of the 2020 election and another focused on the former president’s handling of classified documents. Trump is also contending civil litigation. A judge dealt Trump a gag order in a New York fraud trial, which has already led to two violation fines — the most recent costing $10,000.
Throughout the whirlwind legal battles, Trump has broadly denied wrongdoing, pleaded not guilty to the charges he faces, and claims that politically motivated prosecutors are conducting a “witch hunt” against him.
All the while, Trump is running a 2024 campaign, potentially paving the way to a 2020 rematch against President Joe Biden. Trump’s legal defense effort has sapped up a great deal of resources as well as media attention, but he is leading GOP polls heading into the primary season.
This piece was updated with comment from the Trump campaign.