Judge hands Trump another gag order as he grants restrictions in hush money trial

Donald Trump will be restricted from making any public statements about witnesses, jurors, lawyers, court staff and their families, according to a partial gag order from New York Justice Juan Merchan, who is overseeing the so-called hush money case against the former president.

The judge’s order, issued hours after Mr Trump lashed out at his daughter on his Truth Social, blocks the former president from making any such statements “made with the intent to materially interfere” with any work in the case, which is scheduled to go to trial on 15 April.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg requested a limited gag order last month, citing Mr Trump’s “long history” of “inflammatory” remarks aimed at the prosecutors, judges, court staff and others wrapped up in his mountain of criminal and civil litigation.

The district attorney’s office also pointed to Mr Trump’s threatening social media posts, including a photo he posted that depicts him wielding a baseball bat at the back of Mr Bragg’s head.

The February filing from Mr Bragg’s office also notes that his office received at least two “terroristic mailings” that included envelopes with white powder following Mr Trump’s ongoing attacks against the prosecutors leading the cases against him.

The former president “has a long history of making public and inflammatory remarks about the participants in various judicial proceedings against him, including jurors, witnesses, lawyers and court staff,” according to prosecutors, noting that such statements “pose a significant and imminent threat to the orderly administration of this criminal proceeding.”

A “narrowly tailored” request to rein in Mr Trump’s remarks will ensure “the integrity of the upcoming trial while still affording [Mr Trump] ample opportunity to engage in speech, including speech about this case,” they wrote last month.

Over the course of the hush money case, there have been “credible threats of violence, harassment, and intimidation directed at the District Attorney, his staff, and the District Attorney’s Office,” with “hundreds of threats in the wake of, and connected to, [Mr Trump’s] public attacks,” according to prosecutors.

The New York City Police Department had only logged one threat against the district attorney and his office in the 15 months before Mr Trump “rallied his supporters in protest of this investigation and indictment,” the filing states.

But the agency’s threat assessment unit logged “an extraordinary surge in threat activity that began on the very day” Mr Trump began targeting him and other New York officials, they added.

That unit logged 89 threats against the district attorney, his family or employees of his office in 2023, the first of which occurred the same day that the former president called on his supporters to “protest” and “take our nation back,” the filing states.

Police reviewed 600 threatening phone calls and emails in March of last year alone, as the office prepared to indict the former president.

“Defendant has also acknowledged – and reports have confirmed – that his public attacks have incited his supporters to engage in their own misconduct, yet defendant has refused to moderate his comments to prevent such harms,” they wrote.

Mr Trump is charged with 34 counts of falsifying business records in connection with repayments to his then-lawyer Michael Cohen, who arranged an alleged hush money scheme to an adult film star to prevent the release of potentially compromising stories about Mr Trump and his affairs in the leadup to the 2016 presidential election.

Mr Trump also faces partial gag orders in his civil fraud case and in his federal election interference case.

Special counsel Jack Smith’s team described that dynamic as “part of a pattern, stretching back years, in which people publicly targeted” by Mr Trump are “subject to harassment, threats, and intimidation.”

The former president “seeks to use this well-known dynamic to his advantage,” the filing added, and “it has continued unabated as this case and other unrelated cases involving the defendant have progressed.”

Gag orders in the civil case in New York block Mr Trump, his attorneys and all other parties in the case from disparaging court staff. A state appeals court allowed the orders to stand after court filings outlined a wave of credible death threats and abusive messages that followed Mr Trump’s attacks against court employees and others involved in that case,

An official with the New York court system’s Department of Public Safety wrote in an affidavit that “the implementation of the limited gag orders resulted in a decrease in the number of threats, harassment, and disparaging messages that the judge and his staff received.”

“However, when Mr Trump violated the gag orders, the number of threatening, harassing and disparaging messages increased,” he added.

The threats against Justice Arthur Engoron and his clerk Allison Greenfield were “serious and credible and not hypothetical or speculative,” he wrote.