George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley said Friday that the gag order imposed on former President Donald Trump by a federal judge “is unconstitutional” as a federal appeals court put the order on hold.
The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit placed an administrative stay on the gag order United States District Judge Tanya S. Chutkan issued Oct. 17, planning for a Nov. 20 hearing. Chutkan previously refused to recuse herself from the case in a Sept. 27 ruling.
“They could have left it to continue, to continue while they reviewed it, but, they decided, perhaps in an abundance of caution to order this stoppage until they can give it a full review,” Turley told Fox News host Laura Ingraham about the order. “The reason I think this could be quite significant is because I think the order is unconstitutional.”
“I said that when it was first issued. It’s a very odd concept of an order because the court here insisted on having this trial before the election, sort of shoehorned it in before Super Tuesday,” Turley continued. “And everyone in this election is going to be talking about these cases, except one person under this gag order.”
Special counsel Jack Smith secured a four-count indictment of Trump relating to his efforts to contest the results of the 2020 election in August. Smith sought the gag order in September, claiming that Trump’s criticism of him was an effort to undermine confidence in the judicial system.
“He can’t criticize the prosecutors, he can’t criticize witnesses, and special counsel Jack Smith just asked for this order to be expanded in an equally unconstitutional way,” Turley said. “That has drawn the criticism even of the ACLU, which is a staunch critic of Donald Trump, but the ACLU has said look, this is flagrantly unconstitutional.”
Turley noted that the stakes involved with the gag order were particularly high.
“Much of this election is going to turn on these prosecutions. Millions of people believe that the criminal justice system has been weaponized,” Turley told Ingraham. “Now, whether that’s true or not, when you hold these trials before the election, everyone is going to be talking about it, and there is going to be sharp criticism.”
“Usually when you have these gag orders, it’s to protect a jury pool so that they’re not influenced by all of the publicity that might be generated. Well, you know, that ship has sailed,” Turley said. “You just ordered a major trial before an election and so the question for the court of appeals is, what is the real purpose of this?”
Harold Hutchison on November 3, 2023