Trump’s gag order expanded after social media posts about judge’s daughter

2 April 2024, 08:34

Donald Trump
Donald Trump. Picture: PA

The former president has been banned from making public statements about the witnesses, jurors and others connected with the case.

The judge in Donald Trump’s April 15 hush-money criminal trial has declared family off-limits to the former president’s rancour.

On Monday, a gag order was expanded just days after Mr Trump assailed the judge’s daughter and made false claims about her on social media.

Manhattan judge Juan M Merchan amended a week-old ban on Mr Trump making public statements about witnesses, jurors and others connected with the case after the presumptive Republican nominee lashed out at Loren Merchan, a Democratic political consultant in several posts on his Truth Social platform.

Election 2024 Trump
Donald Trump shared posts on his social media platform Truth Social about Loren Merchan, the daughter of the judge in the case (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)

Trump is still free to criticise Mr Merchan and another key figure in the case, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, an elected Democrat who’s leading the hush-money prosecution. But under the revised gag order, the DA’s family is now off-limits from his rhetoric, too.

Mr Merchan wrote: “This pattern of attacking family members of presiding jurists and attorneys assigned to his cases serves no legitimate purpose.

“It merely injects fear in those assigned or called to participate in the proceedings that not only they, but their family members as well, are ‘fair game,’ for Defendant’s vitriol.”

A violation could result in Mr Trump being held in contempt of court, fined or even jailed.

Mr Trump’s lawyer, Susan Necheles, declined comment.

A spokesperson for the district attorney’s office also declined comment.

Trump Hush Money Judge
Judge Juan Merchan has ruled that family was off limits (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

Mr Trump’s hush-money case, one of four criminal cases against him, centres on allegations that he falsely logged payments to his former lawyer Michael Cohen as legal fees when they were for Mr Cohen’s work covering up negative stories about Mr Trump during the 2016 campaign.

That included money Mr Cohen paid to porn actor Stormy Daniels on Mr Trump’s behalf so she would not publicise her claim of a sexual encounter with him years earlier.

Mr Trump pleaded not guilty last April to 34 counts of falsifying business records, a felony punishable by up to four years in prison, though there is no guarantee that a conviction would result in jail time.

He denies having sex with Ms Daniels and his lawyers have said that the payments to Mr Cohen were legitimate legal expenses, not part of any coverup.

Trump Hush Money Judge
Judge Juan Merchan addresses former President Donald Trump during a court hearing ahead of his April 15 trial (Elizabeth Williams via AP)

Mr Trump touched off a firestorm last Wednesday — the day after the original gag order was issued — when he suggested on Truth Social, without evidence, that Mr Merchan’s rulings were swayed by his daughter’s political consulting interests and wrongly claimed that she had posted a photo on social media showing him behind bars.

Mr Trump complained that the judge was “wrongfully attempting to deprive me of my First Amendment Right to speak out against the Weaponization of Law Enforcement” by Democratic rivals and that Loren Merchan “makes money by working to ‘Get Trump'”.

Mr Trump’s posts put Mr Merchan in an extraordinary position as a judge and a father.

APTOPIX Trump Hush Money
The hush money case is one of four criminal cases against the former President (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura)

Just two weeks before jury selection in the historic first-ever criminal trial of a former president, Mr Trump’s lawyers and prosecutors wrangled in a series of court filings over the bounds of the original gag order and whether Mr Trump had overstepped them.

Mr Merchan concluded: “It is no longer just a mere possibility or a reasonable likelihood that there exists a threat to the integrity of the judicial proceeding.

“The threat is very real. Admonitions are not enough, nor is reliance on self-restraint.”

Mr Merchan responded after prosecutors asked him to “clarify or confirm” the scope of the gag order and to direct Mr Trump to “immediately desist from attacks on family members”.

Trump Media Losses
The latest ruling follows comments made by Donald Trump about Loren Merchan, the daughter of the judge, on his Truth Social social media platform (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)

Assistant District Attorney Joshua Steinglass implored Mr Merchan to “make abundantly clear” to Mr Trump that the gag order protects the judge’s family, Mr Bragg’s family and the family members of all other individuals it covers.

He urged Mr Merchan to warn Mr Trump “that his recent conduct is contumacious and direct him to immediately desist”.

Mr Trump’s lawyers fought the gag order and its expansion, citing constitutional concerns about restricting Mr Trump’s speech further while he is campaigning for president and fighting criminal charges.

On Monday, they said they would soon ask again for Mr Merchan to step aside from the case — promising a court filing in the coming days seeking his recusal based on what they said were “changed circumstances and newly discovered evidence”.

Trump Hush Money
Lawyers for the former president have said they will ask for the judge to step aside from the case, saying they have discovered ‘changed circumstances and newly discovered evidence’ (Justin Lane/Pool Photo via AP)

Mr Merchan refused the defence’s demands to exit the case last year when they first made an issue of his daughter’s consulting work and questioned 35 dollars (£27) worth of donations he had made to Democratic causes during the 2020 campaign, including 15 dollars to Mr Biden.

Mr Merchan said then that a state court ethics panel found Loren Merchan’s work had no bearing on his impartiality.

He ruled last September that he was certain of his “ability to be fair and impartial” and that Mr Trump’s lawyers had “failed to demonstrate that there exists concrete or even realistic” reasons for recusal.

Mr Trump’s original gag order, issued last Tuesday, had barred him from either making or directing other people to make public statements on his behalf about jurors or potential witnesses in the hush-money trial, such as his lawyer-turned-nemesis Mr Cohen and Ms Daniels.

Trump Hush Money
Former President Donald Trump’s trial will begin on April 15 and he has been warned that he will forfeit his right to see the names of jurors if he engages in conduct that threatens their safety or integrity (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

The order, echoing one in Mr Trump’s Washington, DC, election interference criminal case, also prohibits any statements meant to interfere with or harass the court’s staff, prosecution team or their families.

Those prohibitions still apply, along with the newly minted ban on comments about Mr Merchan’s and Mr Bragg’s families.

Mr Merchan, in expanding the gag order, also warned Mr Trump that he will forfeit his right to see the names of jurors — which are otherwise being kept from the public — if he engages in conduct that threatens their safety or integrity.

“Again, all citizens called upon to participate in these proceedings, whether as a juror, a witness or in some other capacity, must now concern themselves not only with their own personal safety but with the safety and the potential for personal attacks upon their loved ones,” Mr Merchan wrote.

“That reality cannot be overstated.”

By Press Association

Latest World News

See more Latest World News

Trump Hush Money

Two jurors dismissed from Trump hush money trial

Indonesia Volcano

Thousands evacuated and tsunami alert issued after Indonesian volcano eruption

United24 ambassadors

Polish man suspected of aiding Russian plot to assassinate Zelensky arrested

APTOPIX Trump Hush Money

Jury selection enters pivotal stretch as Trump’s hush money trial resumes

Croatia Election

Croatia’s conservatives believe majority is close despite inconclusive vote

Fire and smoke rise out of the Old Stock Exchange, Boersen, in Copenhagen, Denmark

Copenhagen and Paris mayors discuss lessons learned after fires wreck landmarks

California Google News

Google fires 28 staff after office sit-ins to protest cloud contract with Israel

A police forensic officer at the Christ the Good Shepherd church in suburban Wakely in western Sydney, Australia

Sydney bishop says he ‘forgives’ alleged attacker after church stabbing

French construction worker Damien Guerot

French hero gains Australian residency for confronting shopping centre killer

Firefighters work on a building that was partially destroyed after a Russian bombardment in Chernihiv, Ukraine (Francisco Seco/AP)

Russia reports downing five Ukrainian military balloons

Police officers clean the debris from an earthquake in Uwajima, Ehime prefecture, western Japan

Strong earthquake in Japan leaves nine with minor injuries, but no tsunami

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump meets with Poland’s President Andrzej Duda

Poland’s president becomes latest foreign leader to visit Donald Trump

German far-right politician of the Alternative for Germany (AfD) Bjorn Hocke, centre, attends his trial in the state court in Halle, Germany

Far-right politician stands trial in Germany over alleged use of Nazi slogan

Belgium EU Summit

EU leaders vow to impose tougher sanctions on Iran as Ukraine pleads for support

Asylum seeker Anicet Mayela pictured outside Campsfield House detention centre in Oxfordshire

Asylum seeker raped 15-year-old girl after his deportation flight was blocked by protesting cabin crew

Skye, a Husky dog, sits near floodwater in Dubai

UAE struggles to recover after heaviest recorded rainfall hits desert nation