Hush money prosecutors say gag order covers judge’s daughter after Trump attacks

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Manhattan prosecutors and former President Trump are sparring over the scope of the gag order imposed on the former president in his hush money criminal case less than three weeks out from the start of trial.

The former president has continued to direct his rage at Judge Juan Merchan’s daughter in social media posts after Merchan this week refused to delay Trump’s trial and approved prosecutors’ request to gag him.

In separate letters made public on Friday, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s (D) office and Trump’s lawyers argued over whether the gag order’s language reaches the families of both the district attorney and the judge.

The order limits Trump’s public statements about “the family members of any counsel or staff member” involved in the case.

But, it explicitly enables Trump to continue attacking Bragg himself and also does not appear to restrict Trump’s statements about the judge.

“The People believe that the March 26 Order is properly read to protect family members of the Court. But to avoid any doubt … this Court should now clarify or confirm that the Order protects family members of the Court, the District Attorney, and all other individuals mentioned in the Order,” prosecutor Joshua Steinglass wrote in a letter to the judge.

Trump’s legal team pushed back on the notion, suggesting prosecutors’ requested clarification amounts to an expansion of the restrictions.

“The express terms of the gag order do not apply in the manner claimed by the People, which they seem to acknowledge by suggesting the need to ‘avoid any doubt,’” Trump attorneys Susan Necheles and Todd Blanche wrote in their letter.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – MARCH 21: Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg speaks during a press conference at the Louis J. Lefkowitz State Office Building on March 21, 2024 in New York City. Bragg announced the indictment of Grimaldi’s Pizza owner Anthony Piscina and the pizzeria’s Manhattan manager Frank Santora for $20,000 in wage theft from at least seven employees at the Grimaldi’s Flatiron location. They are both charged with Scheme to Defraud and seven counts of Failure to Pay Wages in accordance with Labor Law. (Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

Bragg’s office is prosecuting Trump on accusations of falsifying business records in connection with reimbursements Trump made to his then-fixer, Michael Cohen, who had paid porn star Stormy Daniels $130,000 shortly before the 2016 election to stay quiet about an alleged sexual encounter with Trump. Trump, who denies an affair, pleaded not guilty to the 34 felony counts.

The former president himself has not held back from aiming his ire at the families of his perceived foes across his numerous legal battles, targeting the spouses and children of udges overseeing his cases and prosecutors.

Trump has stepped up his attacks on those involved in his hush money case as his trial date has approached. Merchan at a Monday hearing refused Trump’s lawyers demand that the trial be postponed beyond April 15.

In particular, Trump this week has singled out Merchan’s daughter over her employment at a progressive digital agency. The former president cited her employment in his demand last year that the judge recuse himself, but Merchan refused in part based on guidance from an ethics advisory committee.

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In prosecutors’ letter, Steinglass urged the judge to warn Trump he was violating the gag order and sanction him if he continues disregarding it, arguing his attacks are highly likely to influence witnesses and others.

“That is, potential trial witnesses and prospective jurors who are not currently the subject of defendant’s invective will likely fear having themselves and their family members be subject to similar attacks,” Steinglass wrote.

“This fear is not hypothetical: in the course of preparing for trial, multiple potential witnesses have already expressed grave concerns to the People about their own safety and that of their family members should they appear as witnesses against defendant,” he added.

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