Attorneys for former President Donald Trump filed a formal notice of appeal Tuesday after a federal judge prohibited him from publicly disparaging witnesses, prosecutors and court staff members involved in the criminal case alleging he illegally tried to reverse the 2020 election results.
The filing with the U.S. Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia came within hours of U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan’s having formalized her order from Monday in a written decision.
"All interested parties in this matter, including the parties and their counsel, are prohibited from making any public statements, or directing others to make any public statements, that target (1) the Special Counsel prosecuting this case or his staff; (2) defense counsel or their staff; (3) any of this court’s staff or other supporting personnel; or (4) any reasonably foreseeable witness or the substance of their testimony," the ruling said.
Chutkan added that the order "shall not be construed to prohibit Defendant from making statements criticizing the government generally, including the current administration or the Department of Justice; statements asserting that Defendant is innocent of the charges against him, or that his prosecution is politically motivated; or statements criticizing the campaign platforms or policies of Defendant’s current political rivals, such as former Vice President Pence."
Trump called the ruling "unconstitutional" after Chutkan announced her order Monday, and he complained about it again Tuesday to reporters at a courthouse in New York City where he and his company are fighting a $250 million civil fraud action brought by the state attorney general's office.
“The judge said basically I don’t have the right to speak,” Trump said. “My speech has been taken away from me. I’m a candidate that’s running for office, and I’m not allowed to speak.”
In her ruling, Chutkan said that the partial gag order was necessary and that Trump's attorneys' contention "that no limits may be placed on Defendant’s speech because he is engaged in a political campaign is untenable."
"Undisputed testimony cited by the government demonstrates that when Defendant has publicly attacked individuals, including on matters related to this case, those individuals are consequently threatened and harassed," Chutkan wrote.
"Defendant has made those statements to national audiences using language communicating not merely that he believes the process to be illegitimate, but also that particular individuals involved in it are liars, or 'thugs,' or deserve death," she added, saying "such statements pose a significant and immediate risk."
In a brief filed last month, Trump’s team had argued that the gag order sought by prosecutors was politically motivated, calling it "nothing more than an obvious attempt by the Biden Administration to unlawfully silence its most prominent political opponent, who has now taken a commanding lead in the polls."
The case is scheduled to go to trial in March. Trump has pleaded not guilty to the four charges against him: conspiracy to defraud the U.S.; conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, obstruction and conspiracy against the right to vote and to have one’s vote counted.