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 January 24, 2024

Federal appeals court declines to remove a gag order on Donald Trump

A federal appeals court refused to remove a gag order from former President Donald Trump in his election interference case, the Associated Press reported. However, Trump scored a win as the court left modifications to the order that allowed him to speak out against special counsel Jack Smith.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit released the decision Tuesday. Trump's legal team was angling to abolish the order entirely to free the former president to speak about every aspect of his case.

His attorneys argued that Supreme Court precedent demonstrated that the kind of sweeping gag order imposed on Trump was out of line. They thought it should be rescinded "both to secure uniformity of this Court’s decisions and because of the question’s exceptional importance."

The gag order was first imposed in October by U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan. The argument was that Trump would taint the jury pool and intimidate witnesses by speaking out about the case.

A three-judge panel narrowed the scope of the gag order last month, freeing Trump to speak against Smith by name. However, other witnesses or facts about the case can only be discussed in general terms in accordance with the order.

Trump is also awaiting the results of a separate appeal on whether presidential immunity would nullify all the charges as they relate to his conduct on Jan. 6. According to an NBC News report, Trump believes that's a necessary perk of the presidency.

"A president of the United States must have full immunity, without which it would be impossible for him/her to properly function. Any mistake, even if well intended, would be met with almost certain indictment by the opposing party at term end," Trump posted to his TruthSocial.

"Even events that 'cross the line' must fall under total immunity, or it will be years of trauma trying to determine good from bad. Sometimes you just have to live with 'great but slightly imperfect,'" Trump said.

"All presidents must have complete & total presidential immunity, or the authority & decisiveness of a president of the United States will be stripped & gone forever. Hopefully this will be an easy decision. God bless the Supreme Court!" Trump said.

The ruling on his immunity claim is also expected shortly. With the lower courts' decisions on both issues, it would also allow Trump to move the matter up to the U.S. Supreme Court.

These legal battles are happening as Trump continues to gain momentum in the GOP presidential primary. Trump handily won in the Iowa caucuses and continued his streak into Tuesday's New Hampshire primary, Reuters reported.

Even with several concurrent cases being litigated against Trump, Republican voters found him favorable over Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley. In fact, he became the first Republican since 1976 to win both contests.

Trump seems untouchable as the primary moves toward a definitive conclusion on "Super Tuesday" on March 5. Still, Haley is hanging on, likely in the hopes that she'll be the default winner if one of these legal battles bests Trump in a way that she can't.

The gag order against Trump during an election year certainly smacks of political maneuvering. Still, the recent decision to allow it to stand more narrowly than first issued and possible move to the Supreme Court is a victory.

Written By:
Christine Favocci

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