Trump hush money trial judge partially lifts gag order ahead of debate with Biden

NEW YORK — New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan partially lifted Trump’s gag order in his hush money case — enabling the Republican frontrunner to publicly speak about witnesses and jurors in the case — just two days before the first presidential debate.

The ruling means Trump is now free to rail against some of his favorite targets, including adult film star Stormy Daniels and fixer-turned-foe Michael Cohen, who both testified during the weekslong trial.

Court staff, their family members and prosecutors are still off-limits, however.

Trump’s lawyers had requested that Merchan nix the gag order entirely, arguing it violates his First Amendment rights and isn’t needed after Trump was convicted last month of 34 felony counts of falsifying business records to cover up a hush money payment to Daniels.

“There is ample evidence to justify continued concern for the jurors,” Merchan wrote in the decision, but added that he couldn’t keep in place the section of the gag order that prevented Trump from talking generally about them because the jurors were discharged at the end of the trial.

A separate order that prevents Trump from publicly disclosing their identities remains in place.

The decision comes as Trump and President Biden gear up for the first presidential debate on Thursday. Trump used the trial as a campaign platform, taking the opportunity to slam Biden and Democrat-run cities.

Trump, on Truth Social Tuesday, did not directly address the ruling but said, “Never forget — our enemies want to take away my freedom because I will never let them take away your freedom! They want to silence me because I will never let them silence you. In the end, they’re not after me, they’re after you — and I’m just standing in their way!”

Daniels said the limits on Trump were justified given his behavior.

“My response to everyone asking me about the Trump gag order being modified is: Certainly we have nothing but respect for Judge Merchan,” Daniels – whose alleged tryst with Trump is at the center of the case — wrote on X. “His decision to impose restrictions on Mr. Trump, as it related to reckless and unrelenting character attacks on court personnel, trial witnesses, and potentially jurors was extraordinary but clearly justified given the defendant’s uncontrollable daily rants.”

Trump’s sentencing is set for July 11— after which he’ll be free to speak about all aspects of the trial.

“For the past 6 years, Donald and acolytes have been making constant negative statements about me,” Michael Cohen said in a statement. “Donald’s failed strategy of discrediting me so that he can avoid accountability didn’t work then and won’t work now.”

Merchan put the initial gag order in place a few weeks ahead of the trial’s start, citing Trump’s history of “threatening, inflammatory, denigrating” statements.

During the trial, he was fined $10,000 for repeated violations of the gag order.