Judge slaps expanded gag order on Trump after attacks on his daughter

April 3, 2024

Justice Juan Merchan expanded the existing gag order ahead of this month’s hush money trial in Manhattan to cover family members of the district attorney and the judge himself, reports Politico.

The New York judge has tightened restrictions on what Donald Trump can say in the lead-up to his criminal trial later this month. Trump’s trial, over allegations he broke the law by paying hush money to porn star Stormy Daniels to cover up an alleged sexual encounter with her, will start in two weeks.

The move comes after Trump attacked the adult daughter of Justice Merchan, who had issued a gag order last week barring Trump from attacking court staff and prosecutors. It shows Merchan, who is presiding over Trump’s first criminal trial, isn’t shy about clamping down on rhetoric from Trump that he views as incendiary.

In his order, Merchan lambasted Trump’s latest rhetoric: “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,” he wrote. “Such concerns will undoubtedly interfere with the fair administration of justice and constitutes a direct attack on the Rule of Law itself.”

Reached for comment on Monday evening, Steven Cheung, the communications director for Trump’s campaign, called the order “unconstitutional” and said it violates “the civil rights” of his social media followers, who “have a First Amendment right to receive and listen to his speech.”

Over the weekend, Trump dubbed Merchan’s daughter a “Rabid Trump Hater” for her work at a firm that has Democratic clients. He also accused her of using a picture of him in jail as her profile picture on a social media account, but a court official said another person had taken over the account when that picture was added.

Trump’s attacks on Merchan’s daughter are part of a pattern. In two other court cases over the past six months, judges have imposed gag orders barring Trump from going after witnesses and court employees. But Trump has instead attacked the judges and some of their family members—who were exempted from the other gag orders, which judges can deploy to protect the safety of people involved in the case.

Research contact: @politico