Trump gag order expanded after he slams New York judge’s daughter

Donald Trump, flanked by his lawyers, holds a press conference after a judge scheduled his criminal hush money trial to begin on 15 April.

The judge overseeing Donald Trump’s criminal hush money case has expanded a gag order on the former president after his online attacks against his daughter.

Justice Juan Merchan has banned Mr Trump from criticising his family members or those of Manhattan prosecutor Alvin Bragg.

The Trump campaign has called the gag order unconstitutional.

In the case, Mr Trump denies concealing hush money payments to an adult film actress ahead of the 2016 election.

The original order last week barred Mr Trump from attacking court staff, potential jurors and witnesses.

But Mr Bragg, the district attorney, argued on Monday that the restriction should be widened following Mr Trump’s singling out of the judge’s daughter.

On 28 March, Mr Trump posted on his Truth Social platform that Justice Merchan’s daughter was a “Rabid Trump Hater” who “admitted to having conversations with her father about me, and yet he gagged me”.

He has also claimed that Loren Merchan “makes money by working to ‘Get Trump’”, and accused her of sharing social media posts that showed him behind bars.

A New York state court system spokesperson told the Associated Press that Mr Trump’s claim was false and that a social media account that made the posts no longer belonged to Ms Merchan.

Ms Merchan runs a digital marketing agency that works with Democratic candidates among other clients.

Mr Trump’s lawyers strongly opposed the gag order expansion on Monday, saying it would violate his free speech rights.

In his ruling, Justice Merchan wrote that “it is no longer just a mere possibility or a reasonable likelihood that there exists a threat to the integrity of the judicial proceedings. The threat is very real.”

He acknowledged that Mr Trump had the “constitutional right to speak to the American voters freely, and to defend himself publicly”.

Justice Merchan said, however, such attacks “serve no legitimate purpose”.

“It merely injects fear in those assigned or called to participate in the proceedings, that not only they, but their family members as well are ‘fair game’ for Defendant’s vitriol,” the judge wrote.

Mr Trump denies 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in the case. The trial is due to begin on 15 April in Manhattan.

Trump campaign spokesman Steven Cheung slammed the judge’s order.

“The voters of America have a fundamental right to hear the uncensored voice of the leading candidate for the highest office in the land,” he said in a statement.

The former president has made attacks on judges, prosecutors and court staff involved in his cases.

Justice Merchan is not the first judge to issue a gag order preventing the ex-president from attacking court staff.

In a civil fraud trial last year that resulted in a $464m fine against Mr Trump, the judge issued a gag order on the former president after he repeatedly attacked the court clerk.

Mr Trump violated the order, leading to two separate fines and an impromptu grilling on the witness stand.

The former president posted a $175m bond in that case on Monday night, leaving enforcement of the penalty in limbo while he appeals against the judgement.

He is also under a gag order in a separate federal criminal case centred on his effort to overturn the legitimate results of the 2020 presidential election.

A federal appeals court upheld most of that gag order in December, writing that his remarks “pose a significant and imminent threat” to the judicial process.

Stay informed with The Namibian – your source for credible journalism. Get in-depth reporting and opinions for only N$85 a month. Invest in journalism, invest in democracy –
Subscribe Now!

Latest News