Trump gag order expanded after he attacks judge’s daughter on social media | Donald Trump

The judge overseeing Donald Trump’s forthcoming criminal trial in New York expanded an existing gag order on Monday, preventing the former president from making inflammatory comments about the judge’s family members, after they became the target of Trump’s personal attacks.

The new protective order continues to allow Trump to rail against the judge and the Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg, who charged Trump last year with falsifying records to cover up a sex scandal before the 2016 election.

But Trump is now expressly prohibited from assailing the family members of any lawyers or court staff involved in the case, as well as family members of the judge and the district attorney, the New York supreme court justice Juan Merchan wrote in the revised order.

The order cited the recent attacks Trump had leveled at the judge’s daughter and rejected Trump’s contention that he should be free to criticize what he perceived to be conflicts of interest and other complaints because they amounted to “core political speech”.

“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’.”

The original gag order stated Trump could not make, or direct others to make, statements about trial witnesses over their roles in the investigation and at trial; prosecutors other than the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg; and members of the court staff or Bragg’s staff.

The order also barred Trump from assailing the family members of any counsel or staff member, if his comments were intended to interfere with their work in the case, or made with the knowledge that the comments were likely to interfere with that work.

But the order did not specifically prevent Trump from making statements about the judge’s family, a loophole that became apparent after Trump started to pursue the judge’s daughter, Lauren Merchan, in a series of posts suggesting her work in politics meant the judge had a conflict of interest.

The personal attacks against the judge’s daughter came to a head last Wednesday, when Trump attacked her for supposedly using a photo of him behind bars as her profile picture for her X account. The photo “makes it completely impossible for me to get a fair trial”, Trump wrote.

But the account appeared to be bogus. The handle for the X account had belonged to Lauren Merchan, but she had deleted that account, a court spokesperson said. Someone else – it is unclear who – had taken over the handle and used the photo.

Trump and his supporters remained undeterred despite the formal denial. Trump’s surrogates have maintained that the account is still connected to the judge’s daughter, in order to perpetuate claims that the entire family is biased against the former president.

The fixation on the judge’s daughter appears to be spurred in part by the fact that she has worked as an executive at Authentic, a digital marketing agency that works with Democratic political candidates. Trump has previously tried, but failed, to have the judge removed over his daughter’s work.

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In response, prosecutors on Friday asked the judge to clarify whether the gag order was meant to protect his relatives and relatives of the district attorney from Trump’s abuse. They also suggested having Trump held in contempt, arguing the original gag order already contemplated family members.

Merchan granted the clarification request from prosecutors, but he declined to hold Trump in contempt.

“The court’s order of March 26, 2024 did not contemplate the family members of this court or of the district attorney,” the order said. “It is therefore not necessary for this court to determine whether the statements were intended to materially interfere with these proceedings.”

Separately, Trump met a Monday night deadline to post a $175m bond in order to appeal the verdict of the New York civil fraud case, where a judge found him liable for conspiring to inflate his net worth to reap financial benefits, including to get more favorable loan terms from banks.

The New York supreme court justice Arthur Engoron handed down a $454m judgment against Trump in the fraud case. Trump’s lawyers successfully argued for the bond to be reduced last month, staving off a potential financial disaster for the former president, who struggled to raise the cash.

The reduction in the bond handed Trump a lifeline. Had a panel of five judges on the appeals court denied his request, Trump risked losing control over his bank accounts and even some of his marquee properties. By posting the $175m, Trump prevented the New York attorney general from collecting while he appealed.

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