Trump gag order in election case is ‘unconstitutional’: law professor

Former President Trump’s gag order in his Washington, D.C. 2020 election interference case is “unconstitutional,” George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley claimed Friday. 

On Friday, the gag order was temporarily lifted by U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, so the judges can consider Trump’s request for a longer pause on the restrictions while his appeals play out. 

“They decided in perhaps an abundance of caution to order this stoppage until they can give it a full review,” Turley told Laura Ingraham on “The Ingraham Angle” Friday. “The reason I think this could be quite significant is because I think the order is unconstitutional. I said that when it was first issued.”

Turley called it a “very odd concept of an order because the court here insisted on having this trial before the election – sort of shoehorned it in before Super Tuesday – and everyone in this election’s going to be talking about these cases except one person under this gag order and that is Donald Trump.”

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Trump’s attorneys had previously denounced the gag order in an appeal saying it is a violation of the First Amendment. 

“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,” Trump’s attorneys wrote in a filing. “The Gag Order violates the First Amendment rights of President Trump and over 100 million Americans who listen to him,” they added.

U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan first imposed the partial gag order Oct. 17, blocking Trump from making statements targeting Special Counsel Jack Smith, his staff, witnesses and court personnel. 

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The order does not prevent Trump from airing general complaints about the case, and Chutkan has said the former president is still allowed to assert his claims of innocence and that the case is politically motivated.

Trump has continued to deny any wrongdoing in the case, and has argued that it’s part of an effort to prevent him winning the presidency in 2024. He has also sharply criticized those involved in the case, including Smith, who he often refers to as “deranged.”

Turley noted that Smith asked for the gag order to be expanded “in an equally unconstitutional way and that has drawn the criticism of even the ACLU, which is a staunch critic of Donald Trump. But the ACLU has said, ‘Look, this is flagrantly unconstitutional’”

He added that “millions of people believe the criminal justice system has been weaponized” with Trump’s prosecutions “and whether that’s true or not, when you hold these trials before the election everyone’s going to be talking about it and there’s going to be sharp criticism.”

He said gag orders are usually issued to protect a jury pool “so they’re not influenced by all of the publicity that might be generated.” 

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Turley added that the question for the court of appeals is “What is the purpose of this” gag order? “If you’re silencing not only one of these leading candidates in the election where this is being debated but he can’t even criticize his former opponent Michael Pence or the witnesses bringing evidence against him that I think is pretty problematic and she’s going to have a hard time – the court, that is – to sustain this if not from the D.C. circuit, the Supreme Court. And if it goes to the Supreme Court that could very well cause issues with her scheduling.” 

Fox News’ Brandon Gillespie and the Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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