U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan has imposed a limited gag order on former President Donald Trump, restricting his public statements involving parties in the federal case against him for attempting to overturn the 2020 election. The order comes after prosecutors argued that Trump's social media posts could influence the case. However, the order falls short of what the Justice Department had requested.
The gag order prevents Trump from making "disparaging" or "inflammatory" comments about parties involved in the case, including Justice Department Special Counsel Jack Smith and potential witnesses. Trump is still permitted to criticize the Justice Department, residents of Washington, D.C., former Vice President Mike Pence, and the Biden Administration.
Judge Chutkan issued the order verbally during a hearing, with a more detailed written order to follow. She warned that there will be "sanctions" if Trump violates the gag order, but did not specify the nature of these punishments.
Trump's attorneys argued that a gag order would infringe on his free speech rights as a presidential candidate and that his social media posts have not affected the case. However, Judge Chutkan appeared unsympathetic to this argument.
The trial in the federal election case against Trump is scheduled to begin on March 4, 2024, a date that Judge Chutkan has indicated she will not postpone. Trump's attorneys had suggested delaying the trial until after the election to allow for easier campaigning.
This is the second gag order imposed on Trump, as a judge overseeing a civil fraud trial against him in New York also ordered parties not to publicly speak about court staff following disparaging remarks made by Trump on social media.
Legal experts and critics have speculated on whether judges would impose a gag order on Trump, given his history of using social media to attack opponents in his legal cases.
It remains to be seen what specific consequences Trump will face if he violates the gag order, with potential penalties ranging from fines to limiting his access to the internet or social media use.