Trump’s hush money gag order partially lifted by judge

A New York judge on Tuesday partially lifted a gag order imposed on former President Trump’s speech in his hush money criminal case.

The updated terms allow Trump to resume speaking about trial witnesses including Michael Cohen and Stormy Daniels, whom he has attacked incessantly. The partial lifting of the order comes just days before the first 2024 presidential debate Thursday, where Trump is expected to address his conviction in the case.

The gag order remains in place when it comes to prosecutors overseeing the case, with the exception of District Attorney Alvin Bragg (D) as well as Judge Juan Merchan, though Merchan said he’d lift those restrictions after the July 11 sentencing.

The partial lift will allow Trump to address the jury that convicted him last month on 34 criminal charges, though the former president remains under a separate protective order that prohibits him from publicly disclosing their identities.

Merchan reluctantly lifted those restrictions, saying it would be his “strong preference” to extend the jurors’ protection, as Bragg’s office had urged.

“However, circumstances have now changed. The trial portion of these proceedings ended when the verdict was rendered, and the jury discharged,” Merchan wrote in his ruling.

Though the ruling comes just two days before Trump is expected to face off against President Biden in the first presidential debate of the 2024 election cycle Thursday, the event is not mentioned in the judge’s order.

Trump was convicted of falsifying business records last month in connection with a hush money payment his ex-fixer, Cohen, made to Daniels, a porn actor, ahead of the 2016 election to keep her story of an alleged affair with Trump a secret. Trump has denied the affair and vowed to appeal the guilty verdict.

He has long railed against the gag order as violation of his First Amendment rights, stressing his status as the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. After the trial ended, Trump’s lawyers after the trial demanded the judge lift the restrictions.

In Tuesday’s order, Merchan defended his original decision to impose the order, noting appeals courts had upheld it.

“Both Orders were narrowly tailored to address the significant concerns regarding the Defendant’s extrajudicial speech,” Merchan wrote. “The Orders were overwhelmingly supported by the record.”

Merchan found that Trump violated the gag order on 10 occasions in the lead-up to and during his trial, fining him $1,000 for each and warning that additional violations could lead to jail time.

The jury’s guilty verdict made Trump the first former U.S. president ever convicted. Bragg has so far declined to say whether his office will seek jail time for Trump.

Updated at 2:02 p.m. ET

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