Judge temporarily lifts Trump gag order in federal 2020 election case

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. judge on Friday temporarily lifted a partial gag order she had imposed limiting Donald Trump’s public statements about the federal criminal case in which the former president is accusing of illegally attempting to undo his 2020 election loss.

Acting on the same day that a New York state judge fined Trump $5,000 for violating a gag order in a civil trial, U.S. District Tanya Chutkan in Washington put on hold the order she issued earlier in the week while she considers the former president’s request for a longer pause while he challenges it.

Lawyers for Trump on Friday asked Chutkan to lift the restrictions while he asks a U.S. appeals court to strike down an order by the judge that they called “breathtakingly overbroad.”

Chutkan on Monday barred Trump from making public statements that “target” Special Counsel Jack Smith, who is prosecuting the case, and members of his staff. The order also prohibits Trump from making comments disparaging court staff and potential witnesses in the case.

Trump in the past has called Smith, who was appointed as special counsel by U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, a “deranged lunatic” and a “thug,” among other insults. Trump is facing four criminal cases and has made disparaging comments about prosecutors in each of them, as well as against the New York state attorney general who brought civil fraud charges against him.

Trump has pleaded not guilty to charges that he plotted to interfere unlawfully in the counting of votes and block the congressional certification of his 2020 loss to Democrat Joe Biden.

(Reporting by Andrew Goudsward; writing by Kanishka Singh; Editing by Will Dunham)