Former US President Donald Trump looks on during the civil fraud trial against the Trump Organization, at the New York State Supreme Court in New York City on December 7, 2023.

Eduardo Munoz Alvarez | AFP | Getty Images

A federal appeals court Friday upheld, but narrowed, the gag order imposed on former President Donald Trump in his criminal election interference case in Washington, D.C.

Trump and others in the case are still restricted from making public statements about “known or reasonably foreseeable witnesses concerning their potential participation in the investigation or in this criminal proceeding.”

They are also barred from making statements about various parties affiliated with the case, or their family members, if those statements are meant to “materially interfere” with their work in the case.

But Trump can resume speaking about special counsel Jack Smith, who is leading the office prosecuting the former president in the D.C. case and another federal criminal case in Florida.

“We do not allow such an order lightly,” Judge Patricia Millett wrote for a three-judge panel in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

“Mr. Trump is a former President and current candidate for the presidency, and there is a strong public interest in what he has to say. But Mr. Trump is also an indicted criminal defendant, and he must stand trial in a courtroom under the same procedures that govern all other criminal defendants. That is what the rule of law means,” Millett wrote.

A spokesman for Trump did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The appellate ruling vacates the original gag order imposed by U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan in the case accusing Trump of illegally conspiring to overturn his 2020 election loss to President Joe Biden. Trump has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Smith had asked Chutkan in September to gag Trump, arguing that his frequent, aggressively critical statements about various parties in the case threatened to undermine its integrity and affect the jury pool.

Chutkan in mid-October granted much of that request. Her initial order barred Trump from statements targeting Smith and his staff, as well as court personnel and “any reasonably foreseeable witness or the substance of their testimony.”

Trump has claimed that the gag order efforts are an attempt to silence him and harm his campaign for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. His lawyers promptly appealed Chutkan’s order.

This is breaking news. Please check back for updates.

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