Donald Trump attacks NY judge's daughter, Manhattan DA Bragg requests court intervene

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Former President Donald Trump repeatedly attacked the daughter of the judge in his New York criminal hush money case last week. In one post on his Truth Social media site, Trump attacked Judge Juan Merchan's daughter by name, calling her "a Rabid Trump Hater, who has admitted to having conversations with her father about me."

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg's office filed a letter with the court Friday asking the judge to "clarify or confirm" that a March 26 gag order prohibits those attacks.

Trump stated that the judge's daughter, Loren Merchan, works for prominent Democrats as a political consultant. The Judge Merchan acknowledged in an August ruling that his daughter heads digital marketing agency Authentic Campaigns, which works with Democratic candidates and non-profits. The judge said that didn't provide a realistic reason for his recusal, citing the determination by the New York State Advisory Committee on Judicial Ethics that the case didn't involve Loren Merchan or her business either "directly or indirectly."

Trump also pointed to a social media post on X (formerly Twitter) that he claimed was from Loren Merchan and depicted Trump behind bars.

However, a court spokesperson told USA TODAY the post was not from her.

“The X, formerly Twitter, account being attributed to Judge Merchan’s daughter no longer belongs to her since she deleted it approximately a year ago," Al Baker, spokesperson for New York's Office of Court Administration, said.

"It is not linked to her email address, nor has she posted under that screenname since she deleted the account. Rather, it represents the reconstitution, last April, and manipulation of an account she long ago abandoned," according to Baker.

Protecting family members from attacks?

Trump's legal team argued in a Friday letter that the existing gag order doesn't protect the judge's family. If the judge wants to consider expanding the gag, he should first order both sides to submit full briefs on the issue, they said.

That briefing would address "the constitutional problems attendant with any additional improper restrictions on protected campaign speech" when the family member at issue "is actively supporting adversarial campaign speech by President Trump’s political opponents," the Trump team argued.

Bragg's office shot back in a Monday letter that the judge's daughter is doing no such thing. Although it didn't go into detail on her work, it likened the Trump team's claim about it to Trump's post about her social media activity.

"There is no constitutional right to target the family of this Court, let alone on the blatant falsehoods that have served as the flimsiest pretexts for defendant’s attacks," Bragg's office said.

Trump has also repeatedly attacked the judge himself, including posting that the judge suffers from "Trump Derangement Syndrome."

Trump's team added in a Monday court filing that his attacks on Loren Merchan should be interpreted as a criticism of the judge's decision not to recuse himself. They claimed the daughter has a financial interest in attacking Trump, including through the case, so Trump's attacks on her are akin to attacks on the judge.

"Thus, extending the gag order to the Court’s family would necessarily extend the gag order to cover the Court itself," Trump's lawyers wrote.

Judges raise alarm over attacks

Judge Juan Merchan's March 26 gag order blocked Trump from publicly commenting on court staff and prosecution lawyers — other than Bragg — if the comments are meant to significantly interfere with work in the case. The judge also extended that order to protect "family members of any counsel or staff member."

Bragg's office said in its Friday court filing that it believes the gag already protects family members of the judge himself, and not just of his staff, but asked the judge to make that clear. The office also asked for clarity that the gag order protects Bragg's family members.

Current and former judges have raised alarm about Trump's posts over the past week.

"It's very disconcerting to have someone making comments about a judge, and it's particularly problematic when those comments are in the form of a threat, especially if they're directed at one's family," Republican-appointed federal trial Judge Reggie B. Walton told CNN’s Kaitlan Collins Thursday.

"The rule of law can only function effectively when we have judges who are prepared to carry out their duties without the threat of potential physical harm," Walton said.

Former Republican-appointed federal appeals court Judge Michael Luttig said on Friday on X that he expects Trump to ramp up efforts to delegitimize the court system in the coming months.

"Never in American history has any person, let alone a President of the United States, leveled such threatening attacks against the federal and state courts and federal and state judicial officers of the kind the former president has leveled continually now for years," Luttig posted.

It's far from the first time presumptive Republican presidential nominee has attacked judges or those associated with them. He has repeatedly called judges across his several civil and criminal cases Trump haters. Judge Arthur Engoron from Trump's New York civil fraud trial intervened to protect his law clerk from attacks by Trump or Trump's lawyers after suggestions from Trump that she was in a relationship with a prominent Democratic lawmaker and from his team that she was engaging in "co-judging" in the case.

Engoron later wrote that his office had been "inundated with hundreds of harassing and threatening phone calls, voicemails, emails, letters, and packages."

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Trump repeatedly attacks judge's daughter in New York hush money case