Updated Oct 20, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Trump asks for stay of narrow gag order in Jan. 6 case

Donald Trump at a rally at the Palm Beach County Convention Center on October 11. Photo: Alon Skuy/Getty Images

Former President Trump requested a stay Friday of a narrow gag order in his Jan. 6 criminal case.

The latest: Trump's legal team called the order issued by U.S. District Judge Tanya S. Chutkan on Monday "breathtakingly overbroad" and claimed it violates "virtually every fundamental principle of our First Amendment jurisprudence," per the court filing.

Why it matters: Prosecutors had said a gag order was necessary to protect the integrity of judicial proceedings, while Trump's lawyers argued it would violate his right to free speech and hamstring his 2024 presidential campaign.

  • Under the order, Chutkan said Trump would not be allowed to mount a "smear campaign" against prosecutors and court personnel, AP reported.
  • "No other criminal defendant would be allowed to do so, and I'm not going to allow it in this case," she added.

Catch up quick: Special Counsel Jack Smith requested a "narrowly tailored" gag order for Trump in September to limit his public statements about the case.

  • Federal prosecutors argued that Trump's public remarks about the case threatened to "undermine confidence in the criminal justice system and prejudice the jury pool."
  • Trump's lawyers pushed back on the request, saying in a court filing that a gag order would violate Trump's First Amendment rights and "unconstitutionally silence" him during his ongoing bid for the White House.

State of play: Chutkan on Monday granted some of the prosecution's request for a gag order while denying other aspects, the New York Times reported.

  • The limited gag order forbids Trump from making statements that target special counsel Jack Smith or his family, prosecutors, court staff, or witnesses.
  • However, the order doesn't prevent him from criticizing the residents of Washington, D.C. — where the trial will take place — or the Biden administration or Justice Department, more generally.
  • Chutkan did not restrict Trump's statements about his belief that the case is politically motivated and did not prevent him from making statements about her.
  • Trump can also make remarks about political opponents, such as former Vice President Mike Pence, himself a potential witness, so long as they don't relate directly to his role in the case, per the Times.
  • Chutkan did not specify how she would enforce the order, but said she would address that if and when Trump violated it, the Times reported.

Zoom in: Chutkan said Trump must "follow the conditions of release," and that "he does not have the right to say and do exactly what he pleases," to which Trump's lawyer, John Lauro, agreed, CNN reported.

  • Trump's conditions of release in the case prohibit harassing or intimidating witnesses, per NBC News.
  • Lauro argued Monday that the conditions of release have been working and are sufficient, and highlighted the difficulty of enforcing a gag order during the campaign, the Times reported.
  • Prosecutor Molly Gaston argued that the order would prevent Trump from making "disparaging and inflammatory or intimidating statements."
  • She raised the possibility of fining Trump or changing the conditions of his release if he were to violate a potential gag order, per the Times.

The big picture: Trump has repeatedly criticized Chutkan and others involved in the case on social media.

  • Prosecutors have pointed to Trump's social media posts as evidence of the need for narrow gag order. "If you go after me, I'm coming after you!" Trump wrote in one Truth Social post highlighted by prosecutors.
  • He has even called one potential witness "a gutless pig," AP reported.
  • Chutkan warned Trump in August against making any "inflammatory statements" about the case.

Of note: Chutkan said Monday the case's trial "will not yield to the election cycle, and we will not revisit the trial date," CNN reported.

  • The trial is scheduled to begin March 4, despite Trump's efforts to have the case dismissed.

Background: In August, Trump pleaded not guilty to all charges in the case.

  • Earlier this month, the New York judge overseeing Trump's civil fraud case issued a gag order against Trump, preventing him from making personal attacks against court staff.

Editor's note: This story and headline been updated with new developments from the hearing and to reflect the Trump team’s request for a stay.

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