Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. President Donald Trump attends a rally in Reno, Nevada, U.S. December 17, 2023.
Carlos Barria | Reuters
Former President Donald Trump on Monday asked a federal appeals court to reconsider a ruling that upheld a gag order that limits what he can publicly say about a criminal election interference case in Washington, D.C.
Trump’s rehearing petition argues that the gag order violates his First Amendment right to free speech at a time when he is the leading Republican candidate for the presidency, and also violates Supreme Court decisions.
The petition asks the entire 15-judge lineup of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in D.C. to reconsider the Dec. 8 ruling by a three-judge panel on that court, which upheld but narrowed the gag order. Such so-called en banc petitions are rarely granted.
“The [panel’s] opinion holds that President Trump must be silenced to protect trial participants from possible threats or “harassment” from unrelated third parties,’ ” Trump’s lawyers wrote in their petition.
“In doing so, the opinion conflicts with decisions of the Supreme Court and other Circuits, warranting en banc consideration both to secure uniformity of this Court’s decisions and because of the question’s exceptional importance,” the attorneys wrote.
Regardless of the appeals court’s decision, the Supreme Court almost certainly will be asked to review the question of the gag order on Trump.
The initial gag order was issued in October by Judge Tanya Chutkan in a federal district court in Washington.
The order barred Trump from making public statements targeting Department of Justice special counsel Jack Smith, who is prosecuting Trump, as well as Smith’s staff, court personnel, and “any reasonably foreseeable witness or the substance of their testimony.”
In its Dec. 8 ruling, the appeals court panel said Trump could make public comments about Smith.
Trump is charged in the district court with illegally conspiring to overturn his 2020 election loss to President Joe Biden.
Trump has pleaded not guilty in the case, which is one of four pending criminal prosecutions he faces.