On Monday, April 1, 2024, Newsmax reported that Manhattan Judge Juan M. Merchan amended a gag order prohibiting Donald Trump from making public statements about his upcoming criminal trial in response to Trump’s comments about the judge’s daughter on social media.

Last week, Judge Merchan had issued an initial gag order barring Trump and his lawyers from making public statements about potential witnesses and jurors in the case. However, Trump subsequently made posts on his Truth Social platform criticizing Judge Merchan and claiming he had conflicts of interest due to his daughter’s work as a Democratic political consultant.

In response, Judge Merchan expanded the scope of the gag order on Monday to also prohibit Trump from making any statements regarding the family members of those involved in the case. This includes protecting not only the judge’s own family but also the family of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who is leading the prosecution against Trump.

In his ruling, Judge Merchan said Trump’s attacks on those associated with the case “serve no legitimate purpose” and “inject fear” into participants and their loved ones about facing potential “vitriol” from the defendant. A violation of the expanded gag order could result in Trump being held in contempt of court, fined, or even jailed as the case moves forward.

The criminal case centers on allegations that Trump falsified business records related to payments made to his former attorney Michael Cohen during the 2016 presidential campaign. Specifically, prosecutors claim Trump misreported the purpose of $130,000 in payments to porn actress Stormy Daniels, meant to silence her allegations of a past sexual encounter with Trump, as legal fees rather than campaign expenditures.

Trump has pleaded not guilty to the felony charges. His legal team has argued the payments were in fact legitimate attorney expenses. However, the case represents the first-ever criminal trial of a former president, with jury selection scheduled to begin in just two weeks.

In light of the recent controversy over Trump’s comments, Judge Merchan made clear the threats to the integrity of the legal proceedings from such speech are now “very real” and require stronger protections. He rejected arguments from Trump’s attorneys that expanding the gag order infringed on the former president’s free speech rights while campaigning.

Going forward, the judge warned Trump could forfeit the right to know potential jurors’ identities if further comments endanger their safety or impartiality. Both sides are also anticipating Trump’s lawyers will soon file another recusal request, aiming to replace Judge Merchan on the case. However, the judge has previously refused such demands and maintained he can preside over the trial fairly.



Source: Newsmax