Hush-Money Judge Expands Gag Order After Trump Attacked His Daughter

Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The Manhattan judge handling Donald Trump’s criminal case expanded a gag order against the former president Monday night, writing that Donald Trump’s relentless and unprecedented attacks against his daughter left him no choice but to act.

Trump is now barred from publicly speaking about the family members of court staff and prosecutors with the Manhattan district attorney’s office.

“The average observer, must now, after hearing defendant’s recent attacks, draw the conclusion that if they become involved in these proceedings, even tangentially, they should worry not only for themselves, but for their loved ones as well,” Judge Juan Merchan wrote. “Such concerns will undoubtedly interfere with the fair administration of justice and constitutes a direct attack on the Rule of Law itself.”

“It is no longer just a mere possibility or a reasonable likelihood that there exists a threat to the integrity of the judicial proceedings,” he added. “The threat is very real. Admonitions are not enough, nor is reliance on self-restraint.”

Just hours earlier, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office requested Merchan expand the earlier gag order, writing in similar fashion that Trump’s daily broadsides against those involved with the case represented a threat to the court’s ability to function.

“[Trump’s] dangerous, violent, and reprehensible rhetoric fundamentally threatens the integrity of these proceedings and is intended to intimidate witnesses and trial participants alike— including this court,” wrote Matthew Colangelo, one of the leading prosecutors on the case.

From the start of the case when Trump was indicted last year, Merchan has strictly limited what Trump could do with evidence he receives from law enforcement.

Last month, the judge issued a gag order barring Trump from employing the same veiled threats he has used against judges, prosecutors, and witnesses in other cases. But that order merely covered line prosecutors, court staff, and witnesses and their families. Trump’s own defense lawyers believed Trump was not forbidden from lambasting the judge himself or Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg Jr., according to a person briefed on the situation who spoke to The Daily Beast on condition of anonymity.

With that perceived green light, Trump has spent the past week launching verbal attacks against Bragg, Merchan, and even the judge’s own daughter–using her professional involvement in politics to accuse her of somehow tainting the case and calling into question the judge’s ability to fairly adjudicate the case.

Trump’s Attacks on Judges and Prosecutors Are Dangerous. Gag Him Completely

On Wednesday, Trump launched a broadside on Truth Social accusing Merchan of suffering from “an acute case of Trump Derangement Syndrome.” In another post, he called Loren Merchan, the judge’s daughter, out by name in claiming she was “a Rabid Trump Hater” who had worked for many of his political enemies.

Trump also alleged that Loren Merchan had posted an image of him behind bars on her X account. The photo, Trump complained, made it “completely impossible for me to get a fair trial.”

A spokesperson for the New York State Court system quickly explained that the X account in question no longer belonged to Loren Merchan.

“It is not linked to her email address, nor has she posted under that screen name since she deleted the account,” the spokesperson said. “Rather, it represents the reconstitution, last April, and manipulation of an account she long ago abandoned.”

On Monday, the DA’s office asked the judge to clarify and expand his gag order.

“This issue is not complicated. Family members of trial participants must be strictly off-limits. Defendant’s insistence to the contrary bespeaks a dangerous sense of entitlement to instigate fear and even physical harm to the loved ones of those he sees in the courtroom,” Colangelo, one of the prosecutors, wrote.

Trump Just Won’t Stop Attacking Hush-Money Judge’s Daughter

This episode is the latest example of how the American justice system–like the mainstream media has since 2015–is struggling to properly respond to a powerful politician who exploits a traditional institution’s restraint as a cudgel to undermine its practice.

Anticipating Trump’s inevitable claims that any gag order violates his constitutional right to free speech, prosecutors made clear their view that Trump has gone far afield of acceptable behavior.

“There is no constitutional right to target the family of this court, let alone on the blatant falsehoods that have served as the flimsiest pretexts for defendant’s attacks. Defendant knows what he is doing, and everyone else does too. And we all know exactly what defendant intends because he has said for decades that it is part of his life philosophy to go after his perceived opponents ‘as viciously and as violently’ as he can,” Colangelo wrote for his team, quoting from Trump’s 2004 book, How To Get Rich.

Late last month, Merchan ruled that jury selection in the trial would begin on April 15.

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