NYC judge issues gag order against Trump ahead of Stormy Daniels hush money trial

NEW YORK — A Manhattan judge on Tuesday granted prosecutors’ request for a limited gag order restricting Donald Trump’s public statements about people involved in the Stormy Daniels hush money case ahead of next month’s trial.

In a four-page order, state Supreme Court Judge Juan Merchan prohibited Trump from making or directing anyone else to make public comments about known or possible witnesses regarding their participation, prosecutors handling the case, and the DA and Merchan’s staff and their relatives.

The order also prevents Trump from commenting on jurors or prospective jurors. The judge previously ruled that their identities would be anonymous to the public.

Trump had opposed the request. His attorney, Todd Blanche, and a spokeswoman for Bragg declined to comment.

In asking Merchan to restrict what Trump can mouth off about, prosecutors pointed to his lengthy history of verbal attacks on his perceived enemies and their often violent undertones, making mention of one Truth Social post last year depicting him “holding a baseball bat and wielding it at the back of the district attorney’s head.”

Merchan, who, like Bragg, has been inundated with death threats and racist correspondence at various intervals since Trump was indicted in Manhattan, rejected the ex-president’s contention that as a leading presidential candidate, his criticisms of public figures are valid, noting his diatribes have gone “far beyond defending himself.”

“Indeed, his statements were threatening, inflammatory, denigrating, and the targets of his statements ranged from local and federal officials, court and court staff, prosecutors and staff assigned to the cases, and private individuals including grand jurors performing their civic duty,” the judge wrote.

“The consequences of those statements included not only fear on the part of the individual targeted, but also the assignment of increased security resources to investigate threats and protect the individuals and family members thereof.”

The order does not prevent Trump from publicly remarking on the judge or his relatives, whom Trump has gone after online repeatedly and as recently as Tuesday morning, oddly complimenting the judge’s looks before launching into a tirade spewing conspiracies about his daughter.

“Judge Juan Merchan, a very distinguished looking man, is nevertheless a true and certified Trump Hater who suffers from a very serious case of Trump Derangement Syndrome. In other words, he hates me! His daughter is a senior executive at a Super Liberal Democrat firm,” he wrote on Truth Social.

Trump, 77, has pleaded not guilty to 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in his Manhattan case, alleging he concealed checks to his former fixer, Michael Cohen, in 2017 to disguise that they came as reimbursement for a payoff to Daniels in a broader scheme to secure his 2016 presidential victory.

On Monday, Merchan set a new trial date of April 15 after rejecting Trump’s latest bid to delay it.

In more posts about the case Trump published on his social media website the morning after appearing in court, the Republican front-runner also chided his former personal lawyer Michael Cohen, slated to be the star witness at the trial, as “a convicted LIAR and FELON,” and writing that he was “death” for the case.

Cohen, a longtime Trump loyalist before turning on him when he pleaded guilty to federal charges tied to the hush money scheme in 2018, welcomed Merchan’s ruling but said he wasn’t confident his former boss would abide by it.

“I want to thank Judge Merchan for imposing the gag order as I have been under relentless assault from Donald’s MAGA supporters,” Cohen told the New York Daily News. “Nevertheless, knowing Donald as well as I do, he will seek to defy the gag order by employing others within his circle to do his bidding, regardless of consequence.”