Trump asks judge to terminate gag order in hush money case

Lawyers for Donald Trump asked the judge overseeing his criminal hush money case to terminate the gag order against the former president, saying it’s no longer justified since the trial is over.

“Now that the trial is concluded, the concerns articulated by the government and the Court do not justify continued restrictions on the First Amendment rights of President Trump – who remains the leading candidate in the 2024 president election – and the American people,” Trump’s lawyers wrote in a letter to Judge Juan Merchan.

In the letter sent Monday and made public Tuesday, Trump’s attorneys said the justification for the gag order was “to protect the integrity of this criminal proceeding and avoid prejudice to the jury.”

The argument to lift the gag order is “even stronger” since President Joe Biden has publicly commented on the guilty verdict against Trump, certain witnesses have commented and a presidential debate is scheduled for later this month, the letter states.

When asked about the status of the gag order, a court spokesman said, “the order is part of the court record that has been made publicly available and it speaks for itself.”

The Manhattan District Attorney’s office opposed Trump’s request in a letter filed Tuesday, stating that the court still has an obligation to protect the integrity of the proceedings at least until Trump is sentenced next month.

“These interests have not abated, and the Court has an obligation to protect the integrity of these proceedings and the fair administration of justice at least through the sentencing hearing and the resolution of any post-trial motions. The People’s opposition will address whether, if at all, it would be appropriate to tailor aspects of the Court’s Orders given the conclusion of the trial,” the letter states.

In March, just before the trial started Merchan granted prosecutors’ request for a gag order that precluded Trump from making public statements about any witnesses in the case, jurors, prosecutors, court staff, or members of their family. Trump was not restricted from commenting on Merchan or Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg.

A representative for Bragg declined to comment.

In imposing the gag order Merchan wrote, “Although this Court did not issue an order restricting defendant’s speech at the inception of this case, choosing instead to issue an admonition, given the nature and impact of the statements made against this Court and a family member thereof, the District Attorney and an assistant District Attorney, the witnesses in this case, as well as the nature and impact of the extrajudicial statements made by Defendant in the D.C. Circuit case (which resulted in the D.C Circuit issuing an order restricting his speech), and 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 fined Trump $10,000 and found him in criminal contempt for violating the gag order 10 times early in the trial and raised the prospect that he might have to jail Trump if he continued to do so.

This story has been updated with additional details.

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