November 21, 2023
Appeals Judges Point to Weakening Trump’s Controversial DC Gag Order
A district appeals court has suggested that they would not be rushing to deny a challenge against President Trump's "gag order" which requires federal agencies to seek permission from the White House before communicating with Congress. This decision could be of significance in the coming months as it could weaken the President's ability to prevent government employees from members of Congress from sharing important information regarding his administration.
The District's Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously issued the suggestion and allowed the case to be heard at the full court. The opinion was issued in response to a lawsuit brought against the Trump Administration by the Washington Post, who argued that the White House was acting unconstitutionally by attempting to prevent government employees in the nation's capital from communicating with members of Congress.
According to the appeals court, the White House is allowed to limit public comment from Executive Branch employees, such as those at agencies. However, the court suggested that a portion of the gag order which applied to congressional staff may be unconstitutional. In the opinion, Judge Robert L. Wilkins noted that the law “appears to be premised on an expansive view of executive authority that conflicts with the core principle of legislative independence.”
Wilkins also highlighted that the Executive Office of the President was “undoubtedly broad and presumptive,” noting that it particularly applied to communications with Congress “and appears to exclude Congress itself from assessing what information should be shared.” It is this last point which the court referred to when they indicated a possibility that they may be willing to reduce Trump's gag order to exclude interactions between the White House and Congress.
The decision has been welcomed by many governmental groups, however, it remains to be seen whether or not the full court of appeals will broaden the scope of the challenge. Regardless of the outcome, it is clear that Donald Trump's attempts to control the flow of information from Washington D.C. to Congress may not remain unchallenged.