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Trump legal news brief: Appeals court presses Trump lawyers, DOJ on leaving gag order in place

Photo illustration of Donald Trump, with a quotation mark and an ellipsis inset in a red background

Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: Spencer Platt/Getty Images, Supreme Court of the state of New York, Getty Images (3)

A Washington, D.C., appeals court hears arguments for and against lifting Judge Tanya Chutkan’s gag order on former President Donald Trump in the federal election interference case and signals that it may scale back its overall scope. In New York, meanwhile, Judge Arthur Engoron denies a motion for a mistrial put forth by Trump’s lawyers on the grounds that he and his law clerk, Allison Greenfield, are unfairly biased against Trump. Here’s the latest on the legal cases facing the former president attempting a return to the White House in 2024.

Jan. 6 election interference

Appeals court hears arguments on Trump gag order in election interference case

Key players: Judge Tanya Chutkan, special counsel Jack Smith, Trump lawyer D. John Sauer, DOJ lawyer Cecil VanDevender, U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Patricia Millett

  • On Monday, Sauer told a three-judge panel at the U.S. Court of Appeals that the gag order Chutkan imposed on Trump amounted to a muzzling of “the core political speech of the leading candidate for president at the height of his reelection campaign,” NBC News reported.

  • Chutkan’s order restricted Trump from attacking prosecutors, court staff and potential witnesses in the federal election interference case brought by Smith but allowed him to continue to go after the Biden administration and the Justice Department regarding the handling of the case. The appeals court paused the gag order earlier this month.

  • VanDevender told the appeals court that Smith’s office had “been subject to multiple threats” following inflammatory remarks by the former president and argued the gag order should remain in place.

  • The judges seemed skeptical of Sauer’s assertion that, despite possible threats made by his supporters, Trump should be granted "absolute freedom" to say whatever he wanted about the case.

  • But the appeals court judges also signaled that they may scale back the original gag order to give Trump leeway in responding to those who criticize him, Politico reported. “We have to use a careful scalpel here,” Millett said.

  • The appeals court did not issue a final ruling Monday.

Why it matters: Trump has sought to try all the cases against him in the court of public opinion, linking the charges against him with an alleged effort to keep him from becoming president again. Should the gag order be lifted, he would be free to continue sharply criticizing Smith’s team and those who may testify against him.

New York financial fraud

Engoron rejects Trump’s ‘nonsensical’ motion for mistrial

Key players: Judge Arthur Engoron, clerk Allison Greenfield, New York Attorney General Letitia James, Trump lawyer Christopher Kise

  • On Friday, Engoron rejected a motion for a mistrial filed by Trump’s attorneys on the grounds that the judge and his law clerk were biased against them, Bloomberg reported.

  • “As I have made clear over the course of this trial, my rulings are mine and mine alone,” Engoron wrote in his ruling. “There is absolutely no ‘co-judging’ at play.”

  • He described the arguments made by Kise as “nonsensical,” writing “my principal law clerk does not make rulings or issue orders — I do.”

  • Engoron added that “there is no factual or legal basis for a mistrial based on these allegations against my principal law clerk.”

  • Kise had argued that Greenfield had exceeded the annual amount she was allowed to donate in political donations, but Engoron noted that information, which was taken from an editorial friendly to Trump, was false.

Why it matters: From the start of the $250 million fraud trial brought by James, Trump has sought to portray Engoron and Greenfield as biased against him. Engoron has already established that the defendants in the case are liable for years of inflating their business assets, and the proceedings will determine the punishment in the form of penalties Trump, his adult sons and their family business must pay the state.

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