Trump is just 3 weeks from becoming the first ex-president to go on trial

Judge Issues Gag Order on Trump in New York Hush Money Case

In a groundbreaking move, a New York judge has issued a gag order against former President Donald Trump, effectively barring him from publicly criticizing witnesses, jurors, and other individuals connected to his upcoming hush money trial. This trial marks an unprecedented moment in history as it is the first criminal trial of a former president. The directive, however, does not restrict Trump from voicing his opinions about the judge himself, Juan Merchan, or Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg (D).

The gag order aims to prevent Trump from making any public comments about witnesses, other prosecutors, court staff, and their families if such statements could potentially disrupt the proceedings of the case. Judge Merchan, in his four-page ruling, highlighted the necessity of this order, citing Trump’s previous statements outside of court as posing a significant risk to the administration of justice.

This decision comes just weeks before the trial is set to commence on April 15. Initially, when Trump was charged last spring, Judge Merchan was hesitant to impose such restrictions on Trump’s speech. However, after a request from Bragg’s office, which pointed to Trump’s public remarks attacking those involved in his legal challenges, Merchan agreed to the gag order.

Trump’s legal team has contested the gag order, arguing that it infringes on Trump’s First Amendment rights, especially given his status as the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. They assert that Trump has the right to defend himself. Yet, Judge Merchan’s ruling emphasized that Trump’s statements extended well beyond self-defense, describing them as threatening, inflammatory, and denigrating. These comments not only caused fear among the individuals targeted but also necessitated increased security measures to protect those individuals and their families.

Steven Cheung, a spokesperson for the Trump campaign, criticized the gag order, claiming it restricts a presidential candidate from engaging in essential political speech. Cheung further argued that the order violates the civil rights of the over 100 million Americans who support Trump, as it impedes their First Amendment right to hear his uncensored voice. He maintained that American voters deserve the right to listen to the leading candidate for the nation’s highest office without censorship. Cheung assured that Trump would continue to fight for the country and the Constitution.

This is not the first time Trump has faced a gag order. Recently, he encountered similar restrictions in his New York civil fraud case and his Washington, D.C. federal criminal case related to attempts to overturn the 2020 election results. In the fraud case, Judge Arthur Engoron issued a gag order after Trump made false statements about the judge’s principal law clerk. Despite Trump’s legal challenge against the order, higher courts upheld Engoron’s decision. Trump also faced fines for violating the order.

Similarly, in the federal election interference case, U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan prohibited Trump from making statements that could target foreseeable witnesses, court staff, or prosecutors. Trump appealed this order as well, but the federal appeals court sided with the trial judge.

The language of the new gag order in Trump’s hush money case closely resembles that of the D.C. gag order, indicating a consistent approach to regulating Trump’s public statements in relation to his ongoing legal battles.