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Former federal prosecutor predicts hush money judge will expand Trump gag order

Former federal prosecutor Joyce Vance said she thinks a gag order issued in former President Trump’s hush money trial will likely be expanded, following Trump’s recent attacks on the New York judge and his daughter.

“Judges typically don’t protect themselves simply because they don’t need the protection,” Vance, a former U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, said Friday on MSNBC’s “Alex Wagner Tonight.” “Most good lawyers will insist that their clients behave. That they not, for instance, threaten the judge or a member of the judge’s family, so this is a unique situation.”

“But Alex, the reality is that the judge will have to take action, whether he wants to or not, and it’s about more than protecting himself or his daughter,” Vance told host Alex Wagner.

Judge Juan Merchan imposed Trump’s gag order on Tuesday, preventing the former president from publicly attacking witnesses, other prosecutors, court staff and their family members if the statements are made “with intent to materially interfere” with the case. However, the order did not seem to apply to the judge or his family, though prosecutors argued Friday that it should be clarified or confirmed whether it does.

Vance seemingly agreed with the request, saying the “real problem” is how Trump’s rhetoric affects those who do not have “abundant protection.”

“And when they see Donald Trump doing this to the judge’s daughter, you know, I think we have to accept the fact that they’ll be frightened for themselves, frightened for their families, and it’ll have serious spillover effects if the judge doesn’t put an end to it now,” she said.

Trump lashed out at Merchan’s daughter Loren — who has served as an executive at a progressive political consulting firm that has worked for Democrats including President Biden and Vice President Harris — earlier this week.

Loren Merchan appeared to be behind an account on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, that used a photo illustration of Trump in prison as a profile picture, according to The Associated Press. A court spokesperson said the account was no longer linked to her; it has since gone private, and the photo has been updated.

“So, let me get this straight,” Trump wrote in a Truth Social post Wednesday. “The Judge’s daughter is allowed to post pictures of her ‘dream’ of putting me in jail, the Manhattan D.A. is able to say whatever lies about me he wants, the Judge can violate our Laws and Constitution at every turn, but I am not allowed to talk about the attacks against me, and the Lunatics trying to destroy my life, and prevent me from winning the 2024 Presidential Election, which I am dominating?”

Vance said those at the other end of Trump’s barbs are justified in their worry, adding that his rhetoric could have a negative effect on the case, which is set to go to trial April 15.

“I think judges and other public servants, prosecutors accept to some extent that there is a risk that someone who is filled with hate or are in the grips of a mental health crisis, will harm them or will harm their family,” she said. “What you don’t expect is that it will be the former commander in chief of the United States, who will direct that sort of hate at you, and Donald Trump is out of excuses.”

“His rhetoric is tantamount to saying that he intends for people to go ahead and follow through when he targets someone,” Vance added later.

Trump is facing 34 counts in New York alleging he illegally falsified business records when reimbursing his ex-fixer, Michael Cohen, for making a payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels in an effort to conceal an alleged affair ahead of the 2016 election. He has pleaded not guilty.

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