Trump Seeks Freeze of Gag Order in Election Case During Appeal

Judge Tanya S. Chutkan, who imposed the order, agreed to put it on hold for eight days as the parties filed additional papers.

Lawyers for former President Donald J. Trump on Friday asked the judge overseeing his federal election interference case to temporarily put on hold the gag order she imposed on him in Washington this week, until an appeals court can decide whether it was warranted.

The request for the stay by John F. Lauro, a lawyer for Mr. Trump, was a double-barreled effort to both free the former president from restrictions on his public remarks about the case and to push back the proceedings for as long as possible.

Delay has been a strategy pursued by Mr. Trump in both the election interference prosecution and the other federal case he is confronting — one in which he stands
accused of illegally retaining dozens of classified documents after he left office and then obstructing the government’s efforts to retrieve them.

Shortly after Mr. Lauro filed his 33-page motion, Judge Tanya S. Chutkan agreed to freeze the gag order for at least eight days, giving the defense and prosecution time to file additional papers on the issue. Judge Chutkan’s decision came on the same day that a state judge in New York who is handling Mr. Trump’s civil fraud trial fined him $5,000 for violating that judge’s own gag order.

Mr. Lauro filed a formal notice that he intended to appeal Judge Chutkan’s gag order shortly after she imposed it at a contentious hearing in Federal District Court in Washington on Monday. The order, which followed several threatening social media posts.

Mr. Trump had written about participants in the case, barred the former president from targeting members of her own court staff; the special counsel, Jack Smith, and any members of his staff, or any witnesses who might testify at Mr. Trump’s trial.

Sounding like the appeals brief that had not yet been filed, Mr. Lauro’s motion made several arguments that Judge Chutkan had already rejected.

It assailed the gag order as both “breathtakingly overbroad” and “unconstitutionally vague,” saying that it “violates virtually every fundamental principle of our First Amendment jurisprudence.” Mr. Lauro also said the order trampled not only on Mr. Trump’s own ability to speak freely as he campaigns for the country’s highest office, but that it also “eviscerates the rights” of his supporters, keeping them from “listening to President Trump’s thoughts on important issues.”

Moreover, Mr. Lauro sought to frame the gag order as an attempt by President Biden to “silence” Mr. Trump, even though the case as a whole was handed off to Mr. Smith, an independent prosecutor, within days of Mr. Trump declaring his candidacy.

It remains unclear how long the process of appealing the gag order might take. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, which will hear the matter, has not yet set a schedule for considering the issue.

Mr. Trump, in private conversations with his aides, has made no secret of the fact that he sees winning the election as the best solution to his array of legal problems.

And prosecutors in Mr. Smith’s office have repeatedly accused him and his lawyers of dragging their feet and seeking to push the election interference and classified documents cases back until after the 2024 election. If that were to happen, and Mr. Trump were to win the race, he could have his attorney general dismiss the charges.

Alan Feuer covers extremism and political violence for The Times, focusing on the criminal cases involving the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol and against former President Donald J. Trump. More about Alan Feuer