Trump is subject to a gag order in New York hush money criminal case

Posted on March 27 2024
by Yashmika Dukaran

A judge issued a gag order on Tuesday, prohibiting Donald Trump from publicly discussing witnesses and court personnel before his April 15 criminal trial concerning hush money paid to a porn star.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg's office, prosecuting Trump, the former president and current Republican candidate challenging President Joe Biden, requested the order, which Justice Juan Merchan granted.

"His statements were threatening, inflammatory, denigrating," Merchan wrote, referring to Trump's past attacks on witnesses, prosecutors, and judges in various legal cases.

"Such inflammatory extrajudicial statements undoubtedly risk impeding the orderly administration of this court," wrote the judge, who presides in the New York State Supreme Court.

Trump faces 34 felony counts of falsifying business records to conceal reimbursements to his former lawyer Michael Cohen for a $130,000 payment to porn star Stormy Daniels to silence her before the 2016 election regarding an alleged sexual encounter she claimed to have had with Trump a decade earlier.

Trump denies the encounter with Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford.

In a statement, Trump campaign spokesperson Steven Cheung called the gag order unconstitutional. "American voters have a fundamental right to hear the uncensored voice of the leading candidate for the highest office in the land," Cheung said.

Trump's lawyers previously argued that a gag order would leave him defenseless against political opponents' attacks on the case.

The order from yesterday prohibits Trump from discussing witnesses' roles in the case and making comments about court staff, prosecutors other than Bragg himself, and their family members if the comments were intended to interfere with the case.

Merchan ruled on March 7 that jurors were to remain anonymous except to Trump, his lawyers, prosecutors, and a few others, following prosecutors' concerns about Trump's history of publicly criticizing trial jurors and grand jurors.

The impending hush money trial is one of four criminal cases Trump faces before the November 5 US election. It may be the only one to go to trial before the election. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges and labeled them politically motivated.

The gag order resembles restrictions imposed last year by a federal judge in a criminal case concerning Trump's attempts to overturn his 2020 election loss to Biden.

In a separate civil fraud case filed by New York Attorney General Letitia James, another state judge fined Trump $15,000 last year for twice violating a gag order prohibiting public comments about court staff.

Trump also faces state criminal charges in Georgia related to efforts to overturn his 2020 loss to Biden in the state and federal criminal charges in Florida concerning his handling of sensitive government documents after leaving the White House in 2021.

Trump is appealing a $454.2 million judgment in the civil fraud case for misrepresenting his family real estate company's property values to deceive lenders. On March 25, a mid-level state appeals court suspended that judgment as long as Trump posts a smaller $175 million bond within 10 days.