WASHINGTON (AP) — The federal judge overseeing Donald Trump’s 2020 election interference case in Washington on Sunday reimposed a narrow gag order barring him from making public comments targeting prosecutors, court staff and potential witnesses.
The reinstatement of the gag order was revealed in a brief notation on the online case docket Sunday night, but the order itself was not immediately available, making it impossible to see the judge’s rationale or the precise contours of the restrictions.
U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan, who is presiding over the federal case charging Trump with plotting to overturn the results of the 2020 election, had temporarily lifted the gag order as she considered the former president’s request to keep it on hold while he challenges the restrictions on his speech in higher courts.
But Chutkan agreed to reinstate the order after prosecutors cited Trump’s recent social media comments about his former chief of staff they said represented an attempt to influence and intimidate a likely witness in the case.
The order is a fresh reminder that Trump’s penchant for incendiary and bitter rants about the four criminal cases that he’s facing, though politically beneficial in rallying his supporters as he seeks to reclaim the White House, carry practical consequences in court. Two separate judges have now imposed orders mandating that he rein in his speech, with the jurist presiding over a civil fraud trial in New York issuing a monetary fine last week.
A request for comment was sent Sunday to a Trump attorney, Todd Blanche. Trump in a social media post late Sunday acknowledged that the gag order was back in place, calling it “NOT CONSITUTIONAL!”
Trump’s lawyers have said they will seek an emergency stay of the order from the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. The defense has said Trump is entitled to criticize prosecutors and “speak truth to oppression.”
Trump has denied any wrongdoing in the case. He has made a central part of his 2024 campaign for president vilifying special counsel Jack Smith and others involved the criminal cases against him, casting himself as the victim of a politicized justice system.
Prosecutors have said Trump’s verbal attacks threaten to undermine the integrity of the case and risk inspiring his supporters to violence.
Smith’s team said Trump took advantage of the recent lifting of the gag order to “send an unmistakable and threatening message” to his former chief of staff, Mark Meadows, who was reported by ABC News to have received immunity to testify before a grand jury.
The former president mused on social media about the possibility that Meadows would give testimony to Smith in exchange for immunity. One part of the post said: “Some people would make that deal, but they are weaklings and cowards, and so bad for the future our Failing Nation. I don’t think that Mark Meadows is one of them but who really knows?”
In a separate case, Trump was fined last week $10,000 after the judge in his civil fraud trial in New York said the former president had violated a gag order.
Richer reported from Boston.