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Judge expands gag order after Trump's posts target family members

Judge Juan M. Merchan said Trump's social media attacks warranted expanding the order to Merchan's family.
Judge expands gag order after Trump's posts target family members
Posted at 9:24 PM, Apr 01, 2024

The judge in Donald Trump's hush money criminal case on Monday declared his daughter off-limits to the former president’s rancor, expanding a gag order days after Trump assailed and made false claims about her on social media.

Judge Juan M. Merchan said his original gag order — barring Trump from making public statements about jurors, witnesses and others connected to the case — did not include Merchan's family members, but his subsequent attacks warranted including them.

“This pattern of attacking family members of presiding jurists and attorneys assigned to his cases serves no legitimate purpose,” Merchan wrote. “It merely injects fear in those assigned or called to participate in the proceedings that not only they, but their family members as well, are ‘fair game,’ for Defendant's vitriol."

Merchan's daughter, Loren Merchan, is a Democratic political consultant. Prosecutors had urged Merchan to clarify or expand his gag order after Trump wrote on his Truth Social platform that Loren Merchan “makes money by working to ‘Get Trump,’” and wrongly accused her of posting a social media photo showing him behind bars.

Trump’s lawyers had fought the gag order and its expansion, arguing that Trump was engaging in protected political campaign speech.

Messages seeking comment were left for Trump's lawyers and the Manhattan district attorney's office.

The trial, which involves allegations Trump falsified payment records in a scheme to cover up negative stories during his 2016 presidential campaign, is scheduled to begin April 15. Trump denies wrongdoing and has pleaded not guilty to 34 counts of falsifying business records.

Merchan's gag order echoes one in Trump’s Washington, D.C., election interference criminal case. It prohibits statements meant to interfere with or harass the court’s staff, prosecution team or their families — now including Merchan's family.

Trump, however, remains free to criticize Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, the elected Democrat whose office is prosecuting Trump. But the judge said in his revised order Monday that comments about Bragg's family are now prohibited.

A gag order violation could result in Trump being held in contempt of court, fined or even jailed.

SEE MORE: DA suggests Trump violated gag order with post about judge's daughter

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