The appeals court temporarily frees Trump from the gagging order in the election case

A Washington appeals court on Friday stayed a gag order imposed on former President Donald J. Trump in a federal case accusing him of seeking to overturn the 2020 election, temporarily freeing him to resume attacks on prosecutors and witnesses involved in the case.

In a brief order, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia District said the roughly two-week break was needed to give it “ample opportunity” to decide whether to impose a longer freeze as the court considered separately — and more importantly — the question of whether the gag order was properly imposed at all.

The panel’s decision came in response to an urgent request to stay the order pending an appeal filed Thursday night by Mr. Trump’s lawyers. While the justices — all three of whom were appointed by Democrats — paused the gag order until at least Nov. 20 to allow additional documents to be filed, they wrote in their decision Friday that the brief stay “should not be construed in any way as a decision on the merits” of the broader proposal of Mr. Trump for a more permanent break.

The gag order, imposed last month by Judge Tanya S. Chutkan in Federal District Court in Washington, has now been frozen, reinstated and frozen again. The protracted battle, with its check-ins and multiple reversals, has pitted two of Mr. Trump’s visions against each other.

Prosecutors working for special counsel Jack Smith have repeatedly sought to portray the former president as a serial social media abuser whose often belligerent posts about people involved in the election subversion case had dangerous real-world consequences.

Trump’s lawyers, on the contrary, are trying, without evidence, to characterize Judge Chutkan’s order as an attempt by President Biden to “silence” his main opponent in the 2024 election as the race heats up. Lawyers for the former president argued that the order undermined Mr. Trump’s First Amendment right to express one of the central messages of his campaign: that the four criminal prosecutions brought against him in recent months were a form of political persecution.

Mr. Trump appears to have paid close attention to the various iterations of the order, and the latest pause has opened the door for him to return to threatening posts that violated the initial restrictions Judge Chutkan set.

Her written order barred Mr. Trump from targeting members of her judicial staff, Mr. Smith or members of his staff, or any persons who may reasonably be called to appear as witnesses at the trial.

The previous time the gag order was lifted – which Judge Chutkan herself had undertaken – Mr Trump almost immediately attacked Mr Smith as “deranged”.

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