Restraining Order Issued by Judge in New York Against Trump

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Restraining Order Issued by Judge in New York Against Trump

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. 

Former President Donald Trump speaks during a press conference at 40 Wall Street on March 25, 2024, in New York City.

Michael M Santiago/GettyImages / Getty Images

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 or causing others to comment 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 criticize 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.

Merchan emphasized the urgency of imposing the gag order before the trial begins, citing a pattern of threats and intimidation that has accompanied Trump’s other cases. He noted how the “nature and impact” of Trump’s statements about his federal election interference case in Washington, D.C., prompted the judge in that matter to issue a similar gag order. Merchan wrote that such prior statements establish “a sufficient risk to the administration of justice.”

“Given that the eve of the trial is upon us, it is without question that the imminent risk of harm is now paramount,” the judge wrote.

The order limits what Trump can say about some of his most frequent targets. His former “fixer” and lawyer, Michael Cohen, is a key witness in the case and vehement Trump critic. The former president has derided him as a “sleazebag.” Trump now risks violating the order if he lobs similar insults at Cohen in the lead-up to the trial.

Cohen thanked the judge for imposing the order, telling CBS News that he has been “under relentless assault from Donald’s MAGA supporters” while predicting that Trump “will seek to defy the gag order by employing others within his circle to do his bidding; regardless of consequence.”

Trump is also barred from publicly commenting on counsel in the case other than Bragg. Speaking to the press after a hearing in the case Monday, Trump called one prosecutor in Bragg’s office, Matthew Colangelo, a “radical.” Trump has frequently mentioned Colangelo’s previous work for the Justice Department in his social media posts.

A spokesperson for Bragg declined to comment. A spokesperson for Trump’s presidential campaign said the order “violates the civil rights of over 100 million Americans who follow President Trump.”

“Judge Merchan’s unconstitutional gag order prevents President Trump — the leading candidate for President of the United States — from engaging in core political speech, which is entitled to the highest level of protection under the First Amendment,” Cheung said.

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