A federal judge on Sunday reinstated a gag order against former President Donald J. Trump that had been temporarily put on hold nine days earlier, reimposing limits on what Mr. Trump can say about witnesses and prosecutors in the case he is accused of seeking to overturn 2020 elections
In making her decision, the judge, Tanya S. Chutkan, also rejected a request by Mr. Trump’s lawyers to freeze the gag order for what could have been significantly longer, saying it could remain in place as a federal appeals court in Washington reviews it.
Judge Chutkan’s ruling on the order was made public on PACER, the federal court database, late Sunday, but her detailed order explaining her reasoning was not immediately available due to what appeared to be a glitch in the computer system.
The dispute over the gag order, which was initially filed on October 16 after several rounds of court filings and a difficult hearing in Federal District Court in Washington, has pitted two high-profile legal arguments against each other for weeks.
From the start, Trump’s lawyers, mainly led by John F. Laura, argued that the order was not just a violation of the former president’s First Amendment rights. Instead, the order “silenced” him at a critical moment: just as he was strengthening his position as the Republican Party’s leading candidate for president in the 2024 election.
Federal prosecutors working for the special counsel, Jack Smith, countered that while Mr. Trump is running for the nation’s highest office, he is not authorized to issue public statements threatening or intimidating people implicated in the election meddling case, particularly if the remarks may incite violence in those who read or hear them.
When she first imposed the gag order, Judge Chutkan sided with the government, recognizing Trump’s First Amendment rights but saying she intended to treat him like any other defendant — even if he was running for president.
Mr Trump’s constitutional rights cannot allow him to “launch a pre-trial smear campaign” against people involved in the case, she said, adding: “No other defendant would be allowed to do that, and I will not allow that in this case.”
Shortly after Judge Chutkan issued the gag order, Mr. Lauro began the process of appealing to him. Days later, he asked a judge to freeze the order until the appeals court made its decision, saying the ruling it handed down was “incredibly overbroad” and “unconstitutionally vague.”
The same day, Judge Chutkan put the order on hold for a week, inviting further arguments on whether it should be in effect while Mr Trump’s lawyers appealed it.
In response, prosecutors working for Mr. Smith argued that the gag order should have been reinstated immediately because while it was pending, Mr. Trump violated it by attacking Mr. Smith at least three times by name.
Prosecutors say the former president also violated the freeze order by making two public comments about Mark Meadows, his former chief of staff, who could appear as a witness in the case.
“The defendant took advantage of the court’s administrative downtime to, among other harmful conduct, send an unmistakable and threatening message” to Mr. Meadows, prosecutors wrote to Judge Chutkan. “Unless the court lifts the administrative stay, the defendants will not stop their malicious and damaging attacks.”
Mr. Trump also faces a more limited gag order in a civil case in New York, where he is on trial on charges that he fraudulently inflated the value of his properties for years.
Last week, Judge Arthur F. Engoron, the judge overseeing the civil case in New York, fined Mr. Trump $10,000 for violating the order, which prohibits the former president from going after court staff members. The $10,000 fine followed a similar $5,000 fine imposed on Mr. Trump by Judge Engoron days earlier.