Lawyers for former President Donald J. Trump asked the full federal appeals court in Washington on Monday to consider whether a gag order in the criminal case in which he stands accused of plotting to overturn the 2020 election should be further narrowed or thrown out.
The request for a hearing in front of the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit was Mr. Trump’s latest attempt to challenge the order, which was imposed on him in October by the trial judge handling the case in Federal District Court in Washington. Mr. Trump’s lawyers asked the full court to put the gag order on hold as it decided whether to hear his appeal.
Two weeks ago, a three-judge panel of the appeals court upheld the basic idea of restricting Mr. Trump’s public statements about the case but narrowed the terms of the order in a handful of important ways. As part of its revisions, the panel gave the former president wider latitude to make comments about potential witnesses in the proceeding and to attack Jack Smith, the special counsel overseeing the prosecution.
In its decision, the panel made an important finding: that Mr. Trump’s remarks did not have to present a “clear and present danger” to anyone involved in the case and the gag order could be used as a pre-emptive measure to prevent people from suffering harm.
Mr. Trump’s lawyers, in their request to the full court, took issue specifically with the panel’s ruling that the former president’s speech could be curtailed even if his words could not be linked to any immediate threat.
“This petition presents a question of exceptional importance,” the lawyers wrote. “Whether a district court may gag the core political speech of the leading candidate for president of the United States — disregarding the First Amendment rights of over 100 million American voters — based on speculation about undefined possible future harms.”
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