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Trump barred from attacks on judge's daughter in New York "hush money" case gag order

Gag order restricts Trump in New York trial
Gag order restricts Trump in "hush money" New York trial 03:34

A New York judge barred former President Donald Trump Monday from making public comments about the judge's family.

The order by Judge Juan Merchan came after prosecutors for Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg asked Merchan to expand a previously issued gag order in the case, "making clear that the court's family is off-limits."

Merchan ultimately decided that the comments about his daughter would "undoubtedly interfere with the fair administration of justice and constitutes a direct attack on the Rule of Law itself."

"The average observer must now, after hearing Defendant's recent attacks, draw the conclusion that if they become involved in these proceedings, even tangentially, they should worry not only for themselves, but their loved ones," Merchan wrote. "Such concerns will undoubtedly interfere with the fair administration of justice and constitutes a direct attack on the Rule of Law itself."

Steven Cheung, a spokesperson for Trump's presidential campaign, called the new gag order "unconstitutional" in a statement to CBS News, claiming it prevents Trump "from engaging in core political speech."

"Worst of all, the gag order violates the civil rights of over 100 million Americans who follow President Trump and have a First Amendment right to receive and listen to his speech," said Cheung, echoing an argument made by Trump's lawyers.

Trump repeatedly mentioned Judge Merchan's daughter in social media posts before and after Merchan imposed a gag order on March 26, restricting what Trump could say about those involved in the upcoming April 15 trial.

Trump was barred from commenting on potential witnesses in the case, prospective jurors, court staff, lawyers in Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg's office and the relatives of any counsel or court staffer — but was free to attack Bragg and Merchan.

Trump instead focused his ire on Merchan's daughter, decrying her work for a Democratic consulting firm, linking to an article with a photo of her, and claiming she had posted a doctored photo of him behind bars.

That claim was debunked by a court spokesperson, Al Baker, who said the photo was the result of a "manipulation of an account she long ago abandoned."

Trump's lawyers highlighted Baker's rebuttal in their effort to prevent the gag order from being expanded, accusing Merchan in a Monday filing of using "the Office of Court Administration to respond to media reports relating to Your Honor's daughter."

They also indicated in the filing that they would for a second time seek Merchan's recusal from the case, arguing Merchan should not have participated in a recent interview with the Associated Press. In the interview, Merchan declined to discuss the trial beyond saying his preparation was "intense" and that he is striving "to make sure that I've done everything I could to be prepared and to make sure that we dispense justice."

"There's no agenda here," Merchan said in the interview. "We want to follow the law. We want justice to be done."

The case revolves around reimbursements for a "hush money" payment made by his former lawyer to an adult film star, days before the 2016 presidential election. Trump denies all allegations, has claimed the charges were political retribution, and has entered a not guilty plea in the case, in which he is charged with 34 felony counts of falsification of business records. 

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