Trump Says His Gag Order Is Still in Effect: He Might Be Right

(Bloomberg) -- A day after being convicted of 34 felony counts, Donald Trump said a gag order still prevented him from fully defending himself outside of court.

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At a New York press conference Friday, Trump said the judicially-imposed restriction wouldn’t let him make comments about Michael Cohen, his former lawyer and the prosecution’s star witness at the hush-money trial.

“I’m not allowed to use his name because of the gag order,” Trump said, though he did manage to call Cohen a “sleazeball.”

After two days of deliberation, a jury of 12 New Yorkers found Trump guilty of all 34 counts of falsifying business records to conceal a hush-money payment to a porn star, a conspiracy that prosecutors said deprived voters of vital information before the 2016 election.

Trump also used the press conference to attack the judge presiding over the trial, Justice Juan Merchan, and slammed the prosecution as a scam.

While several lawyers wouldn’t weigh in on Merchan or the prosecutors, they did say the former president might be right about the gag order.

Such restrictions are generally put into place to protect witnesses and jurors and can expire after a trial, but Merchan didn’t lift the order after the verdict came in Thursday afternoon. He imposed the order in March after prosecutors argued Trump’s statements were threatening the integrity of the case.

Read more: Donald Trump Becomes First Former US President Guilty of Crimes

Michael Obus, a former New York state judge, said Friday the order can’t be extended past Trump’s July 11 sentencing, when “the case will be over.”

During the trial, Merchan found Trump violated the gag order 10 different times, warning the former president that any further violations could land him in jail.

A spokeswoman for Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who brought the case, and Todd Blanche, a lawyer for Trump, didn’t return emails seeking comment about the status of the gag order.

It’s still an important issue because Merchan has said that Trump’s attitude toward the gag order could effect sentencing. While Trump technically faces as much as four years in prison on each count, some lawyers have speculated that as a first-time offender with no prior convictions, he could be given a fine or probation.

“I said early on that the one way Trump could guarantee spending some time in jail would be to violate the gag order one more time,” Obus said. “And after the 10, it has had a salutary effect.”

If there is any confusion about the gag order, Trump may have to blame his own legal team, said Marvyn Kornberg, a veteran criminal defense lawyer in New York.

“His lawyers lost a chance to get some clarification from the judge,” Kornberg said.

--With assistance from Erik Larson.

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