Trump hit with gag order in New York ‘hush-money’ criminal trial

Judge Juan M. Merchan issued a gag order on former President Donald Trump for his upcoming New York hush-money case.
Judge Juan M. Merchan issued a gag order on former President Donald Trump for his upcoming New York hush-money case.

Donald Trump was barred Tuesday from publicly bashing witnesses, prosecutors, court staff and jurors in his upcoming “hush money” criminal trial in New York.

Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan issued the limited gag order, citing Trump’s extensive history of ripping prosecutors, court staff and even people sitting on secret grand juries with “threatening” barbs in press conferences and on social media.

“Such inflammatory, extrajudicial statements undoubtedly risk impeding the orderly administration of this court,” Merchan wrote.

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

Judge Juan M. Merchan issued a gag order on former President Donald Trump for his upcoming New York hush-money case. AP
Judge Juan M. Merchan issued a gag order on former President Donald Trump for his upcoming New York hush-money case. AP

The order prevents the former president from making or “directing others to make” statements about expected trial witnesses, such as his fixer-turned enemy Michael Cohen and Stormy Daniels, the porn actress that Cohen paid $130,000 — allegedly at Trump’s behest — to keep quiet about an alleged affair on the eve of the 2016 presidential election.

Trump, 77, will still be allowed to rip Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, an elected Democrat whose office is prosecuting the case, per the ruling.

The presumptive GOP presidential nominee infamously sparked outrage last March when he posted an image of himself holding a baseball bat next to Bragg’s head — threatening “death and destruction” if he was criminally charged in New York.

But the order bars Trump from speaking about the prosecutors leading the case, including Assistant District Attorney Matthew Colangelo, a former top Justice Department official under President Biden.

Trump attacked the prosecutor during a press conference on Monday, calling him a “radical left from DOJ” sent to the DA’s office “to run the trial against Trump and that was done by Biden and his thugs.”

The order also stops Trump from making or “directing others to make” statements about jurors, court staff, and family members of both the court staff and the DA’s lawyers.

It does not define what criteria the court will use to determine whether Trump has “directed” someone else to make a statement.

Trump as of Tuesday afternoon was also still allowed to speak about Merchan, the judge handling the case. He did so as recently as Tuesday morning in a post on his social media platform Truth Social — where he complimented the jurist’s looks before slamming him as a “Trump Hater.”

Judge Juan Merchan cited the ex-president’s comments about him and others in approving the order. REUTERS
Judge Juan Merchan cited the ex-president’s comments about him and others in approving the order. REUTERS

“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,” the ex-president wrote. “In other words, he hates me!”

Trump’s lawyers, who declined comment Tuesday, previously argued that the Republican should have the “unfettered” ability to speak about the case, which is set to go to trial on April 15.

Jurors at trial will be tasked with deciding if Trump is guilty of fudging his business records to cover up the Daniels payoff, in order to hide from voters an explosive claim that he had cheated on his wife Melania just months after she had given birth to their son Barron.

Trump has pleaded not guilty to 34 felony counts of falsifying business records — each punishable by up to four years in prison — and has denied having an affair with Daniels.

It’s unclear how Merchan will respond if the court finds that Trump breaches the gag order. The judge could threaten the ex-president with a fine, or even jail time, theoretically, though jail time would be highly unlikely.

Trump paid $15,000 in fines during his Manhattan civil fraud trial — where he was found liable for inflating his net worth by billions — after the judge overseeing that case found that he violated an order that had barred him from disparaging the jurist’s court staff.