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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Judge imposes gag order on Trump in Manhattan criminal trial

Former President Donald Trump arrives to State Supreme court in Manhattan on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2024. The New York judge presiding over Trump’s criminal trial imposed a gag order on Tuesday, March 26, 2024, that prohibits him from attacking witnesses and prosecutors in the case, the latest effort to rein in the former president’s wrathful rhetoric about his legal opponents. (Jefferson Siegel/The New York Times)

By Ben Protess and William K. Rashbaum

The New York judge presiding over one of Donald Trump’s criminal trials imposed a gag order Tuesday that prohibits him from attacking witnesses, prosecutors and jurors, the latest effort to rein in the former president’s wrathful rhetoric about his legal opponents.

The judge, Juan Manuel Merchan, imposed the order at the request of the Manhattan district attorney’s office, which brought the case against Trump. The district attorney, Alvin Bragg, has accused Trump of covering up a potential sex scandal during and after his 2016 campaign.

The ruling comes on the heels of Merchan setting an April 15 trial date, rejecting Trump’s latest effort to delay the proceeding. It will mark the first criminal prosecution of a former American president.

Trump recently clinched the Republican presidential nomination for the third time, and with three other criminal cases against him mired in delay, the Manhattan case could be the only one to go to trial before voters head to the polls in November.

Under the judge’s gag order, Trump cannot make, or direct others to make, statements about witnesses’ roles in the case. Trump is also barred from commenting on prosecutors and court staff as well as their relatives — if the statements were intended to interfere with their work on the case.

In seeking the gag order last month, Bragg’s prosecutors highlighted Trump’s “long-standing history of attacking witnesses, investigators, prosecutors, judges and others involved in legal proceedings against him” — comments that the judge seized on in his ruling.

“His statements were threatening, inflammatory, denigrating,” Merchan wrote in the Tuesday order.

Trump, for example, has taken aim at Michael Cohen, his onetime fixer and one of Bragg’s main witnesses, calling him a “liar” and a “rat.”

In a rambling and angry post on his social media site Tuesday, Trump made an ominous reference to Cohen, claiming without explanation that his former fixer was “death.” He also referred to one of Bragg’s prosecutors in pejorative terms.

Both comments would now arguably violate the gag order. In another post, Trump took aim at Merchan and his family, claiming that the judge “hates me,” although those comments do not appear to cross the line the judge has now set.

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