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Former Watergate prosecutor weighs in on recent Trump gag order: ‘This is so unusual’

Former Watergate prosecutor Nick Akerman said Wednesday that the gag order recently imposed on former President Trump in his New York hush money trial is “so unusual.”

“I think what the viewers have to understand is, this is so unusual,” Akerman told CNN’s Fredricka Whitfield in an interview. “This never happens, in over 50 years of law practice, both as a prosecutor, a defense lawyer.”

Akerman emphasized the unprecedented nature of how Trump’s case has unfolded, and that his attacks on Judge Juan Merchan could get the former president in “harm’s way.”

Not only is the gag order itself unusual, Akerman noted, but Trump’s conduct in the courtroom that warranted the action from Merchan stood out to the attorney.

“The reason it’s not done is because once you start disparaging the judge, disparaging people in the courtroom, you’re putting yourself in harm’s way. Because that’s the judge who’s going to sentence you. It’s the judge who could send you to jail or give you probation,” Akerman said.

Merchan imposed a gag order on Trump on Tuesday, preventing the former president from making public statements about the court staff, witnesses and other figures in the case. Trump can still publicly deride Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg (D) and Merchan. It was the former president’s third gag order in less than six months, and came just weeks before his trial kicks off on April 15.

Akerman said Trump is a unique example of somebody who is testing the boundaries between protecting the defense’s First Amendment rights and ensuring the safety of the judicial system.

“So you don’t do those sorts of things,” Akerman said. “Donald Trump is the only one I have ever seen do this and do it in such an outrageous way that has really forced the courts to deal with, ‘Where does the First Amendment stop, and where do we need a gag order in order to protect the judicial system?’”

Trump slammed Merchan on Wednesday for imposing the gag order, calling it “illegal, un-American, unConstitutional.”

“This Judge, by issuing a vicious ‘Gag Order,’ is wrongfully attempting to deprive me of my First Amendment Right to speak out against the Weaponization of Law Enforcement,” Trump wrote in a Truth Social post, “including the fact that Crooked Joe Biden, Merrick Garland, and their Hacks and Thugs are tracking and following me all across the Country, obsessively trying to persecute me, while everyone knows I have done nothing wrong!”

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