On Tuesday, President Donald Trump took the extraordinary measure of appealing a partial gag order requested by special counsel Jack Smith in his January 6 case. The President, through his legal representatives, asserted that the gag order was designed to prevent the President from exercising his First Amendment rights, while adding that the order could undermine his ability to respond to “partisan prosecutions.”
The appeal, filed with the District Court of Columbia, calls into question whether the special counsel, appointed by Trump’s Justice Department, has the authority to issue any kind of gag order against the President. The text of the document states that the gag order was issued without authority, and seeks to infringe upon the President’s First Amendment rights.
The particular case is concerning the events that unfolded in Washington, D.C. on January 6, when supporters of the President stormed the Capitol, resulting in multiple deaths and countless injuries. Smith was tapped by the Department of Justice in late January to lead an investigation into the incident, with particular interest in whether or not the President held any responsibility in the events that took place.
Despite numerous attempts from the legal team for the President to stop the order, it has been upheld. The appeal notes that the President has made numerous statements in regards to the case, and certain amendments to the order presented by Smith are ‘vaguely defined’, even going as far as to prohibit the President “from speaking in a manner that would be damaging to the Special Counsel’s investigation.”
The response to the challenge has been largely critical, with many legal analysts pointing out that the President has been using his freedom of speech as a shield against the special counsel’s investigation, going as far as to attempt to discredit the proceedings. The gag order itself is exceptional, as most gag orders are usually issued against witnesses, not defendants.
How the court will rule on the matter remains to be seen. It appears that President Trump is toeing the line in attempting to protect his speech rights, while simultaneously trying to destabilize the special counsel’s case against him. Ultimately, the District Court of Columbia will have the final say in the matter, and it will be some time before the court reaches a decision.