Trump lawyers ask New York judge to lift gag order that stopped him attacking jurors and witnesses

Donald Trump’s lawyers are asking the New York judge who presided over his hush money trial to lift a gag order imposed on him that prevents him from commenting about witnesses, jurors and others tied to the criminal case.

In a letter made public on Tuesday, Trump’s defense attorney Todd Blanche asked New York Justice Juan Merchan to end the gag order “now that the trial has concluded” after a jury convicted Trump on 34 felony counts of falsifying business records on May 30.

“The concerns articulated by the government and the Court do not justify continued restrictions on the First Amendment rights of President Trump – who remains the leading candidate in the 2024 presidential election – and the American people,” Blanche wrote.

A gag order prevents Trump from publicly attacking witnesses, jurors, prosecutors and court staff and their families, with the exception of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg and the judge himself.

Merchan issued Trump’s gag order on March 26, a few weeks before the start of the trial, after prosecutors raised concerns about the defendant and Republican presidential nominee using his platform to target people involved in his cases, and the risk of witness and juror intimidation.

Judge Merchan later expanded the gag order to include comments about his own family after Trump made social media posts attacking the judge’s daughter, a consultant who has done work for Democratic campaigns.

Donald Trump’s lawyers are asking the New York judge who presided over his hush money trial to lift a gag order imposed on him (Getty Images)
Donald Trump’s lawyers are asking the New York judge who presided over his hush money trial to lift a gag order imposed on him (Getty Images)

Trump was fined $10,000 for 10 statements posted on Truth Social directed at witnesses and the jury during the trial, with Judge Merchan threatening him with jail if he continued to violate the terms of the gag.

“Your continued violations … threaten to interfere with the administration of justice, and constitute a direct attack on the rule of law,” Judge Merchan told Trump last month.

While he claimed that he would rather face jail time than comply with the gag order, the former president ultimately evaded scrutiny from prosecutors in the final weeks of his trial, while a parade of his surrogates lashed out at witnesses and the judge’s daughter, and as Trump himself took aim at the prosecution’s star witness Michael Cohen.

Blanche now argues that the basis for the gag order no longer exists, and that recent statements from President Joe Biden, Cohen and Stormy Daniels entitle him to a response.

He also argued the gag order should be lifted ahead of a June 27 presidential debate.

On Wednesday, the office of Manhattan District Attorney told the judge to keep the gag order in place at least until Trump is sentenced.

In a letter to Judge Merchan, prosecutor Matthew Colangelo wrote that the office will “oppose any immediate termination” of the gag.

Colangelo also rejected suggestions that the order should be lifted now that the trial is over because it was based “not only on the need to avoid threats to the fairness of the trial itself” but to protect the integrity of the proceedings and the “orderly administration” of the court.

Despite the conclusion of the jury trial, “those interests have not abated, and the Court has an obligation to protect the integrity of these proceedings and the fair administration of justice at least through the sentencing hearing and the resolution of any post-trial motions,” he wrote,

In the initial gag order, Merchan noted prosecutors had sought the restrictions “for the duration of the trial.” Trump has not yet been sentenced and he said he intends to appeal the jury verdict.

But last week, Blanche said it was his understanding that the order would end when the trial ended and that he would seek clarity from Merchan.

“It’s a little bit of the theater of the absurd at this point, right? Michael Cohen is no longer a witness in this trial,” Blanche told the Associated Press .“The trial is over. The same thing with all the other witnesses. So, we’ll see. I don’t mean that in any way as being disrespectful of the judge and the process. I just want to be careful and understand when it no longer applies.”

A sentencing hearing is tentatively scheduled for July 11.