Trump Gets Hit With Sweeping Gag Order in Hush Money Trial

Shannon Stapleton/Reuters
Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

The judge overseeing Donald Trump’s upcoming hush money trial in New York hit the former president with a gag order on Tuesday, just one day after Trump peddled a conspiracy theory about a prosecutor—and hours after the tycoon levied attacks against the judge’s daughter.

New York Supreme Court Justice Juan M. Merchan forbade Trump from speaking publicly about line prosecutors and court staff—or even their family members. He also subjected Trump to the same sorts of precautionary warnings the former president has faced from other judges in separate cases, ordering him to not even mention any prospective jurors.

However, a person familiar with the Trump team’s internal discussions told The Daily Beast they believe the gag order does not extend to the judge’s daughter. Merchan’s order only mentions the family members of “court staff.”

The snap decision was made on the heels of Trump’s anger-laden press conference yesterday at his 40 Wall Street building in downtown Manhattan, where the former president lashed out after suffering a minor loss in court when Merchan set his criminal trial—Trump’s first ever—to start on April 15.

Trump’s Lawyers Lash Out Against Gag Order Request in Hush-Money Case

When answering reporter’s questions, Trump attacked lead prosecutor Matt Colangelo, an unelected assistant district attorney for New York County. Colangelo worked on investigations against Trump while at the New York Attorney General’s Office, then did a brief stint at the Department of Justice, only to return to the city to join the Manhattan District Attorney’s current case against Trump. The former president seized on those details to surmise—without any proof— that Colangelo was somehow sent by President Biden, Trump’s 2024 presidential rival, to bolster the local DA’s case. The outlandish claim was a continuation of Trump’s long-espoused view that any law enforcement action against him is part of a shadowy “deep state” seeking to keep him from power.

Then on Tuesday morning, Trump shifted his followers’ focus to the judge himself—drawing attention to the judge’s own daughter.

“Judge Juan Merchan, a very distinguished looking man, is nevertheless a true and certified Trump Hater who suffers from a very serious case of Trump Derangement Syndrome. In other words, he hates me! His daughter is a senior executive at a Super Liberal Democrat firm that works for Adam “Shifty” Schiff, the Democrat National Committee, (Dem)Senate Majority PAC, and even Crooked Joe Biden,” Trump posted on his Truth Social media site.

This type of judicial decree is rare and seen as heavy-handed in a regular case, but Trump’s incessant attacks on the judicial system and his ability to rally his MAGA supporters has proven to be a unique threat that has flooded government offices with violent threats in the past two years. In a separate matter in January, the final day of Trump’s three-month bank fraud trial was nearly derailed when a bomb threat was made targeting the home of Justice Arthur F. Engoron, who had overseen that case. Earlier, Trump loyalists left menacing phone calls at his chambers threatening physical violence against the judge and his law clerk, the attorney Allison Greenfield.

In the Manhattan District Attorney’s ongoing case against Trump, the former president has been launching personal attacks against DA Alvin Bragg Jr. from even before the moment a grand jury indicted him for faking business records in a scheme to cover up a hush money payment to the porn star Stormy Daniels. Trump infamously posted a doctored photo of himself wielding a bat while standing ominously behind the DA, an image that was widely interpreted as intimidation.

Judge Refuses to Step Aside in Trump Hush Money Case

Early on in the DA’s case, Justice Merchan took on a measured tone in court when he cautioned Trump’s lawyers against taking any actions that could be perceived as intimidating. He also strictly limited what the former president’s legal defense team could do with the information contained in the thousands of pages it received as evidence from the DA’s office, blocking defense lawyers from leaking any details that could compromise the case or lead to attacks against witnesses.

Merchan’s warnings grew more stern in the weeks that followed, as Trump began publicly speaking about the judge’s daughter. However, the judge did not punish Trump at the time, opting instead to continue cautioning against heated rhetoric.

But as Trump kept launching personal attacks against judges and prosecutors in other cases playing out in Florida, Georgia, and the District of Columbia—always feeding his loyalists’ hatred by chalking up every case to a shadowy, conspiratorial plot against him—the DA’s office sought steps to keep him in check.

In a request filed in court on Feb. 26, eight prosecutors at the DA’s office asked Merchan to keep secret the names and addresses of any jurors who are eventually selected to decide whether Trump committed felonies when covering up his Stormy Daniels affair—especially since these New Yorkers will be the first Americans to decide whether a former U.S. president is guilty of crimes.

Prosecutors wrote that Trump’s “conduct in this and other matters—including his extensive history of attacking jurors in other proceedings—presents a significant risk of juror harassment and intimidation that warrants reasonable protective measures to ensure the integrity of these proceedings, minimize obstacles to jury selection, and protect juror safe.”

In a second request filed that same day, prosecutors also asked Merchan to issue a more sweeping gag order to further shut up Trump.

“Defendant has a longstanding and perhaps singular history of using social media, speeches, rallies, and other public statements to attack individuals that he considers to be adversaries, including ‘courts, judges, various law enforcement officials and other public officials, and even individual jurors in other matters,’” they wrote, adding that “concerns grow more acute with the approaching trial.”

With his order on Tuesday, Merchan granted prosecutors’ request.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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