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Appeals court won't rehear Trump gag order appeal, leaving Supreme Court as final option

U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan imposed the gag order last year after Trump made disparaging comments about her, special counsel Jack Smith and his prosecutors, and potential witnesses.
Image: Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump
Former President Donald Trump at a campaign event in Laconia, N.H., on Monday. Matt Rourke / AP

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has declined to rehear former President Donald Trump's appeal of the gag order imposed on him in the federal election interference case.

Trump had submitted requests to rehear his appeal to both the three-judge panel that originally heard the appeal and the full circuit court. No judge on the full bench requested a vote on Trump’s motion, which means it was automatically dismissed. 

To appeal the gag order further, Trump would have to bring it before the Supreme Court.

U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan, who's overseeing the election interference case brought by special counsel Jack Smith against Trump, imposed a gag order on him last year after he shared disparaging messages on social media about key people involved in the case.

Trump has explicitly taken aim at Chutkan, as well as Smith and other prosecutors in his office and potential witnesses in the case. For example, he has called Smith a "thug" and "deranged" on social media. Chutkan had instituted the gag order to prohibit him from targeting them.

Trump has challenged the order in court since it was issued. In early December, a federal appeals court in Washington narrowed the order, allowing Trump to criticize Smith himself and to respond if a high-profile witness makes disparaging comments about him.

A three-judge panel of the same appeals court is expected to soon issue a ruling on Trump's effort to dismiss the federal election interference case through a claim of presidential immunity. Trump has claimed that he should be immune from prosecution because his efforts to overturn the 2020 election fell within his official duties as president.

The election interference trial is scheduled to begin March 4, but it could be delayed if the court doesn't resolve the immunity question or Trump takes it further, to the Supreme Court.