Judge Hits Trump With Gag Order in Stormy Daniels Case


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A New York judge has issued a gag order on Donald Trump to prevent the former president from making public remarks regarding the witnesses, prosecutors, court personnel, and jurors in his impending hush-money criminal trial.

Judge Juan M. Merchan made the decision the day before, rejecting the defense’s request to postpone the Manhattan trial until the summer and setting the start date for April 15. This decision echoes a gag order in Trump’s criminal case about election interference in Washington, D.C.

“Given that the eve of trial is upon us, it is without question that the imminency of the risk of harm is now paramount,” Merchan wrote in a four-page decision granting the prosecution’s request for what it deemed a “narrowly tailored” gag order.

“The judge said the presumptive Republican presidential nominee’s statements have induced fear and necessitated added security measures to protect his targets and investigate threats. Trump’s lawyers fought a gag order, warning it would amount to an unconstitutional and unlawful prior restraint on his free speech rights. Merchan, who had long resisted imposing a gag order, said his obligation to ensure the integrity of the trial outweighed First Amendment concerns,” the Associated Press reported.

In a court filing, Trump lawyers Todd Blanche and Susan Necheles said: “President Trump’s political opponents have, and will continue to, attack him based on this case. The voters have the right to listen to President Trump’s unfettered responses to those attacks — not just one side of that debate.”


The gag order forbids Trump from speaking publicly about potential witnesses and jurors in the hush-money case or from ordering others to do so.

It also forbids making any remarks intended to intimidate or cause distress to the prosecution team, court employees, or their families.

It does not prohibit remarks about elected Democrat Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg or Merchan, whom Trump called “a Trump-hating judge” with a family full of “Trump haters” following his arraignment last year.

However, it serves as a warning to Trump that disparaging remarks about significant players in the case, such as Stormy Daniels, the porn star, or Michael Cohen, his erstwhile attorney turned adversary, will not be accepted.

Trump might be imprisoned, fined, or even held in contempt of court for a violation.

Cohen, Trump’s former “fixer” who will serve as a key prosecution witness against Trump, released a statement saying, “I want to thank Judge Merchan for imposing the gag order as I have been under relentless assault from Donald’s MAGA supporters. Nevertheless, knowing Donald as well as I do, he will seek to defy the gag order by employing others within his circle to do his bidding, regardless of consequence.”

The gag order strengthens already-existing limitations that forbid Trump from disparaging witnesses in the case using evidence.

The allegations at the heart of Trump’s hush-money case are that he misrepresented payments to Cohen—who was then his personal attorney—as legal fees on the books of his business, even though they were actually for Cohen’s assistance in disguising unfavorable stories about him during the 2016 campaign.

Among them was the $130,000 he had given Daniels on Trump’s behalf to keep her quiet about her alleged previous sexual encounter with him.

In April of last year, Trump entered a not-guilty plea to 34 counts of falsifying business records, a felony that carries a maximum four-year prison sentence. However, a conviction does not ensure that Trump will serve any time behind bars.

He denies ever having sex with Daniels, and according to his attorneys, Cohen’s payments were just reasonable legal fees and had nothing to do with any sort of cover-up.

While not going so far as to silence Trump, Merchan cautioned him during his arraignment not to say anything that would encourage violence or compromise security.

At a subsequent hearing, Merchan noted Trump’s “special” status as a former president and current candidate and said, “I’m bending over backward and straining to make sure that he is given every opportunity possible to advance his candidacy and to be able to speak in furtherance of his candidacy.”

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The AP noted in its report:

As jury selection nears, Merchan has been increasingly wary of Trump’s rhetoric disrupting the historic trial. Earlier this month, Merchan ruled to keep the names of jurors from the public. Trump will have access to them, but he risks forfeiting access if he discloses the names publicly or engages in harassing or disruptive conduct that threatens the safety or integrity of jurors, the judge said.

Now, with the gag order, Merchan is declaring scores of people involved in the case off-limits for Trump’s social media venom, courthouse diatribes, and campaign rallies. Trump’s grousing to TV cameras as he entered and exited the courtroom became ritual during his New York civil fraud trial last year.



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