Donald Trump Gag Order in Hush-Money Case Expanded After Former President Attacked Judge's Daughter

By Leira Aquino

Apr 02, 2024 01:16 AM EDT

Judge Juan Merchan, presiding over Donald Trump's criminal hush money trial, extended a recently imposed gag order to now include his own family.
(Photo : Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

Judge Juan Merchan, who presides over Donald Trump's criminal hush money trial, extended on Monday a recently imposed gag order. This expanded order now includes the judge's family, effectively barring the former president from making any public comments about them.

This comes after Trump launched a string of verbal attacks on Judge Merchan's daughter, Loren Merchan, through his Truth Social account.

Trump's Verbal Attacks Lead to Expanded Gag Order in Hush Money Trial

Last week, Judge Juan Merchan issued a gag order stopping Trump from making statements about witnesses, jurors, prosecutors, court staff, or the family members of prosecutors and court staff. 

However, the gag did not cover the judge or his family. With that, Trump continued launching verbal attacks, specifically targeting Merchan's daughter, Loren Merchan, a Democratic political consultant.

Trump accused Judge Merchan's daughter of bias and posted false claims about her on social media, including sharing an image of the former president behind bars, attributing it to her X (formerly Twitter) account. 

"Judge Juan Merchan is totally compromised, and should be removed from this TRUMP Non-Case immediately," Trump wrote on his Truth Social account. "His Daughter, Loren, is a Rabid Trump Hater, who has admitted to having conversations with her father about me, and yet he gagged me."

A spokesperson for the New York State Court system, however,  clarified that the account no longer belongs to Merchan's daughter, USA Today reported. The X account in question had been inactive for two years.

Prosecutors urged Merchan to expand the gag order to include family members of those involved in the case, stating that Trump's rhetoric threatened the integrity of the proceedings and could intimidate witnesses and participants.

They argued that Trump's attacks on Merchan's daughter constituted a direct assault on the Rule of Law itself. 

"The suggestion that defendant is merely engaging in political counter-speech is an obvious fiction that this Court should emphatically reject," prosecutors wrote in a motion to Merchan on Monday.

"None of defendant's attacks in the past week consist of campaign advocacy. Instead, defendant has viciously and falsely smeared the Court and the family member for no reason other than the Court's presiding over this criminal trial," they added.

Merchan agreed with prosecutors and expanded the gag order to prohibit Trump from making public statements about family members of the court, the District Attorney, and all other individuals mentioned in the Order. 

The Manhattan judge maintained that such attacks could interfere with the fair administration of justice.

READ NEXT: Donald Trump Hush Money Trial to Start Next Month After Judge Rejects His Bid to Further Delay Case

Trump's Legal Team Challenges Expanded Gag Order, Cites First Amendment Rights

Trump's defense team opposed the expansion of the gag order, arguing that it violated Trump's First Amendment rights to engage in political campaign speech. 

They contended that the original gag order already went too far and did not apply to family members of the judge or the District Attorney.

However, Merchan rejected Trump's arguments and accused his attorneys of presenting baseless misrepresentations. He emphasized the necessity of preventing Trump's "dangerous" rhetoric from further disrupting the judicial proceedings.

The trial, scheduled to begin on April 15, revolves around allegations that Trump falsified payment records in a scheme to cover up negative stories during his 2016 presidential campaign. 

Trump denies wrongdoing and has pleaded not guilty to 34 counts of falsifying business records.

READ MORE: Donald Trump Fails to Block Michael Cohen, Stormy Daniels From Testifying at Hush Money Trial

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