In court proceedings on Monday, a federal judge said the on-again, off-again gag order restricting ex-President Donald Trump in his criminal case over alleged election targeting was not a broad threat to the First Amendment. Her comments, along with other remarks from the participating judges during the hearing, suggested to many that the three-judge panel would broadly uphold the order.
“First of all, we’re not shutting down everyone who speaks,” she said, per CNN. “This is only affecting the speech temporarily during a criminal trial process by someone who has been indicted as a felon.” The judge was Patricia Millett. She also had other comments on the relationship between the sought order and those Constitutional protections for free speech. “No one here is threatening the First Amendment broadly,” Millett added.
Anything from the hearing should be considered with a caveat considering the judges hadn’t finalized their decisions, but the developments were a positive sign for those hoping to see the restrictions on Trump’s public remarks restored. The order was temporarily put on hold while these legal challenges moved ahead. In its original form, the trial judge — Tanya Chutkan — blocked Trump from making various attacks on Special Counsel Jack Smith (who brought the case), members of Smith’s team, witnesses, and others. And during the appeals court proceedings before Millett and others on Monday, a participating judge brought up some of Trump’s past, extreme rhetoric against witnesses.
As previously reported on this site, Judge Bradley Garcia, serving on the appeals panel that heard arguments in court this Monday, used the jarring nature of Trump’s comments about ret. Gen. Mark Milley to illustrate the arguable clarity of some of the original restrictions. Trump has infamously suggested Milley’s execution, claiming there was a historical precedent for such an act on account of the recently retired military leader’s allegedly treasonous acts. The commentary from the ex-president spurred no mass exodus from Trump’s camp among Republicans, despite him targeting an opponent from the military this way.