New York judge in hush money case imposes gag order on Trump

Former US president Donald Trump and one of his lawyers Susan Necheles in court for a pre-trial hearing in his New York 'hush money' case (SPENCER PLATT)
Former US president Donald Trump and one of his lawyers Susan Necheles in court for a pre-trial hearing in his New York 'hush money' case (SPENCER PLATT)
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The New York judge presiding over Donald Trump's trial for allegedly making pre-election hush money payments to a porn star slapped a partial gag order on the former president on Tuesday.

Judge Juan Merchan ordered Trump not to publicly attack potential witnesses, prosecutors, court staff, their families or prospective jurors.

The move came just hours after the Republican presidential candidate lashed out at the judge and his daughter in a series of posts on Truth Social.

The 77-year-old Trump described Merchan as a "true and certified Trump hater who suffers from a very serious case of Trump Derangement Syndrome."

"In other words, he hates me," Trump said. "Judge Merchan should recuse himself, he cannot give me a fair trial."

The former Republican president also said Merchan's daughter is "a senior executive at a Super Liberal Democrat firm."

Merchan is the third judge overseeing a case against Trump to issue a gag order.

Judge Arthur Engoron, who presided over a business fraud case in New York that resulted in a $454 million fine for Trump, also issued a limited gag order.

So did District Judge Tanya Chutkan in Washington, who is overseeing the federal case against Trump on charges of seeking to overturn the 2020 election results.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who brought the hush money case against Trump, had asked Merchan last month to issue a "narrowly tailored" gag order to "protect the integrity of this criminal proceeding."

Merchan said Trump was free to comment about the judge himself and Bragg but not the other prosecutors in the case.

- 'Threatening, inflammatory' -

Steven Cheung, a Trump spokesman, denounced the gag order.

"Judge Merchan's unconstitutional gag order prevents President Trump -- the leading candidate for President of the United States -- from engaging in core political speech," Cheung said in a statement.

"American voters have a fundamental right to hear the uncensored voice of the leading candidate for the highest office in the land," he added.

In his order Tuesday, Merchan noted that Trump had a history of making public statements which were "threatening, inflammatory, denigrating."

"The uncontested record reflecting the defendant's prior extrajudicial statements establishes a sufficient risk to the administration of justice," the judge said.

Merchan added that "there exists no less restrictive means to prevent such risk" besides imposing a gag order.

Merchan's move comes one day after he set April 15 as the date for the start of the first ever criminal trial of a former president.

Trump faces charges of falsifying business records for payments made by his lawyer Michael Cohen on the eve of the 2016 presidential election to porn star Stormy Daniels to make sure she did not publicize a sexual encounter.

The twice-impeached Trump faces dozens of charges linked to his alleged conspiracy to overturn the 2020 election and also his hoarding of top-secret documents taken from the White House.