Federal judge blasts Trump’s attacks on judges, warns against tyranny

U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton is criticizing former President Trump’s attacks on the judges involved in his criminal cases, most recently his hush money trial, warning that undermining an independent judiciary risks sliding the country toward tyranny.

Walton joined CNN’s Kaitlan Collins to discuss Trump’s aggressive remarks about the families of his perceived foes in his various legal battles. Trump’s latest target is the daughter of Judge Juan Merchan, the New York state official overseeing his criminal trial linked to hush money payments made to an adult film actress to cover up an alleged affair ahead of the 2016 election.

“It’s very disconcerting to have someone making comments about a judge. And it’s particularly problematic when those comments are in the form of a threat, especially if they’re direct at one’s family,” Walton said Friday.

Walton said he has faced an increased number of threats since he began taking court cases related to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol. His daughter has also been a target of threats, he said.

“We do these jobs because we’re committed to the rule of law and we believe in the rule of law and the rule of law can only function effectively when we have judges who are prepared to carry out their duties without the threat of potential physical harm,” he said.

Merchan’s daughter, Loren Merchan, served as an executive at Authentic Campaigns, the progressive political consulting firm that worked for prominent Democrats, including President Biden.

An account on X, formerly Twitter, appeared to belong to Loren Merchan and at one point used a photo illustration of an imprisoned Trump as its profile picture. Trump posted on his Truth Social site criticizing both the judge and his daughter.

Earlier this week, Merchan placed a gag order on the former president, limiting what he can say publicly about the case. Merchan and his daughter are excluded from the order.

Walton argued that judges can’t let threats impact “how you live your life and how you treat litigants” but said that the threats are an “attack on the rule of law.”

“I think it’s important that, as judges, we speak out and say things in reference to things that conceivably are going to impact on the process, because if we don’t have a viable court system that’s able to function efficiently, then we have tyranny,” he said.

Still, he added it’s a new reality that judges face, listing several other examples where judges and their family members have faced potential violence.

Walton wouldn’t elaborate on the political implications of Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, making the comments, but said it’s important for people with status to understand how their statements resonate with others.

“So, I think it’s very important that people in positions of authority be fairly circumspect in reference to the things that they say, so that they’re not causing others to act on what they say and maybe cause injury or death to someone as a result of that,” he said.

Trump’s hush money case is set to go to trial April 15, Merchan determined Monday, denying the former president’s attempts to further delay it past the November election.

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