On Monday, a panel of federal appeals court judges expressed extreme skepticism about the arguments of Donald Trump’s lawyer that the former president is unconstitutionally being silenced by a gag order in a case involving his alleged interference in the 2020 election.
The panel questioned Trump’s lawyer for over 75 minutes on Monday, pressing him on why he claimed that, due to his current status as a potential 2024 presidential candidate, he should be treated differently in terms of disclosure than other co-defendants in the criminal election interference case.
One judge became visibly frustrated with Trump’s attorney, Dean Soyar, when he consistently resisted answering questions about his hypothetical queries on the order.
After calling Soyar’s position “illusory,” one judge said at one point, “I have not heard from you any interest in impartiality whatsoever.”
Soyar responded that it would be “extraordinarily mesmerizing” for a ban on Trump’s speech to be justified.
Two of the appellate judges, Patricia Millett and Cornelia Pillard, were named to their roles by former President Barack Obama. The third, Bradley Gersich, was appointed by President Joe Biden.
Special counsel Jack Smith has accused Trump of orchestrating an illegal conspiracy to overturn his Electoral College defeat to Biden in the 2020 presidential race. Trump has requested that he not be found guilty of the four-count indictment, including charges of conspiracy to defraud the United States, for crimes allegedly committed in his efforts to overturn the election results.
Trump’s lawyers immediately appealed against the gag order in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, arguing that it violates Trump’s First Amendment rights to speak publicly about his legal battles, especially as he considers running for president again in 2024.
The appeals judges lifted the temporary ban on November 3, while they considered Trump’s request to block their part of the appeal for an extended period. They noted that his temporary trip should not be considered a judgment on the merits of the restraining order.
No decision on the Monday hearing is expected to issue.
Smith’s team has argued that Trump’s statements are intended to intimidate potential witnesses and warned that they could influence the D.C. grand jury pool for the case.
After the temporary restraining order imposed by Chutkan last month, Trump suggested in a statement that his former chief of staff, Mark Meadows, a potential witness, was coerced by Smith to testify.
Chutkan, who had initially lifted the ban on Trump’s request, reinstated it at the end of October, considering Trump’s appeal for an extended ban.