Judge imposes gag order on Trump in New York “hush money” case

The judge overseeing the criminal case against former President Donald Trump in New York imposed a gag order on Tuesday restricting what Trump can say about those involved in the upcoming trial, which revolves around a “hush money” payment made to an adult film star in 2016.

Judge Juan Merchan issued the order limiting Trump’s public statements in response to a February request from Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, whose office listed a series of statements Trump had made related to multiple cases in making the request. 

Merchan said the examples “went far beyond defending himself against ‘attacks’ by ‘public figures.'” He described Trump’s statements as “threatening, inflammatory, denigrating,” with the targets of his statements either assigned to the cases or performing their civic duty. 

Bragg’s office had cited statements Trump made during another New York case, a civil fraud trial that recently ended with a $464 million judgment against him and other defendants. During that trial, Trump publicly attacked a key witness in both cases and was subjected to a gag order for maligning the judge’s clerk.

“The consequences of those statements included not only fear on the part of the individual targeted, but also the assignment of increased security resources to investigate threats and protect the individuals and family members thereof,” Merchan wrote.

The order bars Trump from commenting on potential witnesses in the case, prospective jurors, court staff, lawyers in the district attorney’s office and the relatives of any counsel or court staffer. He is allowed to comment on Bragg himself, as well as Merchan. The case is scheduled to go to trial on April 15.

Trump mentioned Merchan’s adult daughter in a social media post Tuesday morning, decrying her work for a Democratic consulting firm. Trump’s lawyers in 2023 argued Merchan should step down from the case, an effort Merchan rejected.

Trump is charged with falsifying business records related to reimbursements for a $130,000 payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels in the days before the 2016 election. Daniels alleged she had an affair with Trump years earlier and agreed to sell the rights to her story in exchange for the payment. The former president has denied the affair and pleaded not guilty, alleging the prosecution is part of a politically motivated effort to prevent him from winning the presidency in November.

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