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Trump Asks Federal Appeals Court to Lift Gag Order in Election Case

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The former president argued that the order restricting what he can say about the case should not be in effect while he seeks to have it thrown out on appeal.

Lawyers for former President Donald J. Trump filed an emergency request to a federal appeals court on Thursday seeking to lift the gag order imposed on him in the criminal case in which he stands accused of trying to overturn the 2020 election.

The lawyers asked the appeals court to keep the pause of the order in place until it reaches a final decision on whether the order should have been issued in the first place.

“No court in American history has imposed a gag order on a criminal defendant who is actively campaigning for public office — let alone the leading candidate for president of the United States,” the lawyers wrote in their 11th-hour petition to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

“That centuries-long practice was broken,” the lawyers added, when a federal judge in Washington put the gag order in place last month, “muzzling President Trump’s core political speech during an historic presidential campaign.”

Mr. Trump’s lawyers asked the appeals court to render a decision on their request for a stay by Nov. 10. They suggested that they would seek relief from the Supreme Court if the appellate judges denied their motion.

The gag order, imposed by Judge Tanya S. Chutkan of Federal District Court in Washington, was issued against Mr. Trump on Oct. 16 to keep him from targeting members of the court staff, prosecutors working on the case and any people who might appear as witnesses in the proceeding.

It followed a relentless barrage of social media posts by Mr. Trump that threatened not only Judge Chutkan, but also the special counsel, Jack Smith, who is overseeing the two federal prosecutions of the former president.

The protracted battle over the gag order, with its persistent back-and-forth filings, has pitted two visions of Mr. Trump against each other.

Prosecutors working for Mr. Smith have sought to portray the former president as a recalcitrant and recidivist abuser of social media whose often belligerent posts have had dangerous effects in the real world.

They have pointed in particular to a message Mr. Trump placed online shortly after Judge Chutkan was assigned to the election case in August. “IF YOU GO AFTER ME, I’M COMING AFTER YOU!” the message said.

One day after it was posted, a Texas woman called Judge Chutkan’s chambers threatening to kill her. The caller has since been arrested.

Mr. Trump’s lawyers, by contrast, have sought, without evidence, to portray the gag order as an attempt by President Biden to “silence” his chief opponent in 2024 election as the campaign heats up. The former president’s lawyers have argued that the order undermines Mr. Trump’s First Amendment rights to freely express his belief that the election interference prosecution is, in fact, political persecution — despite the fact that Judge Chutkan has expressly allowed him to criticize the case, Mr. Biden and his administration.

Within days of its imposition, Mr. Trump’s legal team appealed the order and asked Judge Chutkan to put it on hold as the appellate court considered their request. Judge Chutkan temporarily froze the order for a week, but only to invite more court papers on the request for the longer stay pending appeal.

Late Sunday night, Judge Chutkan decided to lift the temporary stay. She also denied Mr. Trump’s broader request to freeze the order until the appeals court concluded its review.

In putting the order back in place, Judge Chutkan noted that Mr. Trump had used the weeklong window when he was free of restrictions to yet again go after Mr. Smith and assail potential government witnesses, including his former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows.

Within hours of the move, Mr. Trump went after her again, calling her a “very biased, Trump hating judge” and questioning the constitutionality of her decision.

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