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 March 26, 2024

Trump hit with a gag order before ‘hush money’ trial

Former President Donald Trump was ordered to stay silent by New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan a day after he heard his request to delay or dismiss the “hush money” case, as The Epoch Times reported.

“The uncontested record reflecting the Defendant’s prior extrajudicial statements establishes a sufficient risk to the administration of justice,” the order reads, “and there exists no less restrictive means to prevent such risk.”

“Given that the eve of the trial is upon us, it is without question that the imminency of the risk of harm is now paramount,” the judge wrote.

Judge's Statements

Judge Merchan had stated in a hearing last year that he would not be entering a gag order at the time, but the order comes after two other courts had issued gag orders on President Trump that appeals panels had upheld.

Specifically, President Trump will be prohibited from making statements or directing others to make public statements about known or likely witnesses in relation to the case, jurors or prospective jurors, members of the court and district attorney staff, and family members of counsel or staff “if those statements are made with the intent to materially interfere with ... counsel’s or staff’s work in this criminal case, or with the knowledge that such interference is likely to result.”

The order appears to have a more extensive prohibition on statements pertaining to "prospective jurors" than previous orders, although it is modeled after another gag order concerning President Trump.

Previous Case Requests

In February, the Manhattan district attorney's office made a formal request for a continuous restraining order regarding the former president, citing similar requests made by other prosecutors.

“The freedom of speech guaranteed by the First Amendment and the State’s interest in the fair administration of justice are implicated by the relief sought. The balancing of these interests must come with the highest scrutiny,” Judge Merchan wrote.

A substantial portion of President Trump's social media posts pertaining to the case were presented by prosecutors. These posts comprised criticisms of the credibility and character of witnesses.

The judge highlighted the fact that President Trump did not refute the aforementioned statements or the purported consequences they caused among the parties targeted.

Trump's Defense

Defense attorneys had argued that President Trump, as the presumed Republican nominee in the 2024 presidential election, has a First Amendment right to defend himself in public and discuss his legal cases, and that the American people have a First Amendment right to hear his side of the story.

Disagreeing, the judge deemed the remarks to be of a nature that did not warrant protection.

“These extrajudicial statements went far beyond defending himself against ‘attacks’ by ’public figures,'” the judge wrote.

“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.”

When the judge declined to issue a restraining order in April of last year, he cautioned the parties against releasing incendiary remarks regarding the case.

Attorneys for the defense contended that the admonition served as adequate deterrence and that President Trump has not singled out specific individuals who are connected to the case.

The judge claimed to have been "unpersuaded" that this was accurate, citing the "nature and impact" of statements made by President Trump in a distinct federal case.

Written By:
Charlotte Tyler

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