Judge Chutkan Preserves Trump’s Gag Order As He Appeals Jan. 6 Case

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Ex-President Donald Trump will remain subject to a gag order restricting public statements about individuals including witnesses amid the criminal case from Special Counsel Jack Smith covering the ex-president’s attempts to stay in power after the 2020 elections. That’s the conclusion of federal Judge Tanya Chutkan.

Chutkan previously rejected arguments from Trump of wide-ranging presidential immunity, meaning legal protections associated with his past time as president that the ex-commander-in-chief’s team claimed should shield him from almost all prosecution related to actions he took within the so-called outer perimeter of the role. Trump has appealed Chutkan’s rejection, and he sought amid those appeals a formal hold on proceedings before Chutkan, which legal precedent evidently supports because the question at hand is, fundamentally, whether the case should proceed.

Chutkan concluded, however, that there was nothing at this stage blocking her continued handling of “ancillary” matters, including the restrictions on Trump attacking witnesses in connection to their case participation.

“Second, the court does not understand the required stay of further proceedings to divest it of jurisdiction to enforce the measures it has already imposed to safeguard the integrity of these proceedings, including […] the restrictions on extrajudicial statements,” Chutkan wrote. She herself originally imposed those restrictions, which were mostly upheld by a later decision of a federal appeals court. The judge also cited protective measures around the handling of discovery materials — meaning case-related files shared before trial — and protective measures for jurors as evidently still in force as appeals continue.

If a “criminal defendant could bypass those critical safeguards merely by asserting immunity and then appealing its denial, then during the appeal’s pendency, the defendant could irreparably harm any future proceedings and their participants,” the judge said. Smith, meanwhile, is hoping for the U.S. Supreme Court to go ahead and take up Trump’s claims of immunity so that this controversy can be resolved more quickly. In the meantime, trial — scheduled for March 2024 — is on hold.