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Appeals court rejects Trump's bid to reconsider gag order in the election interference case

Former President Donald Trump speaks to the media at a Washington hotel, Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2024, after attending a hearing before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals at the federal courthouse in Washington. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Washington's federal appeals court on Tuesday rejected Donald Trump's request to reconsider a gag order restricting the former president’s speech in the case charging him with plotting to overturn the 2020 election.

Lawyers for the Republican presidential front-runner had asked the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to examine the gag order after a three-judge panel upheld but narrowed the restrictions on his speech. Trump can now appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

An attorney for Trump didn't immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

The gag order was imposed by U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan in October in response to concerns from special counsel Jack Smith’s team that Trump’s pattern of incendiary comments could taint the proceedings, intimidate witnesses and influence jurors.

The three judge panel that upheld the gag order last month modified it in important ways, freeing Trump to publicly criticize Smith. The special counsel has been a frequent target of Trump’s ire since being appointed by the Justice Department in November 2022 to lead investigations into the former president.

The panel said that though Trump could make general comments about known or foreseeable witnesses, he could not directly attack them over their involvement in the case or about the content of their expected testimony.

Trump’s lawyers argued the panel’s decision contradicted Supreme Court precedent and rulings from other appeals courts. They said a fresh evaluation was needed “both to secure uniformity of this Court’s decisions and because of the question’s exceptional importance.”

A different three-judge panel of the appeals court in Washington is separately weighing Trump’s claim that he is immune from prosecution in the case, which accuses Trump of plotting with his Republican allies to subvert the will of voters in a desperate bid to stay in power. Judge Chutkan, who rejected Trump's immunity claim, has put the case on hold while he pursues his appeal.