Wednesday, June 12, 2024

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Trump Crosses Line With Attacks on Judge Merchan’s Family, Court Expands Gag Order in Response

Trump Crosses Ethical Line with Unhinged Attacks on Judge and Family, Prompting Expanded Gag Order.

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As the highly anticipated criminal trial of former President Donald Trump approaches, tensions surrounding the case continue to escalate. The Manhattan judge presiding over the case, Juan Merchan, has expanded a gag order to include a prohibition on Trump attacking the judge’s family members, who have recently become targets of the former president’s vitriol. 

Justice Merchan’s decision to amend the gag order comes in response to a series of blistering attacks by Trump on the judge and his daughter, Loren Merchan, a political consultant who has worked with Democratic candidates. Instead of going to church on Easter Sunday, Trump spent all day attacking Judge Merchan and his family on Truth Social. He falsely accused Loren Merchan of posting a photo of him behind bars on social media and has demanded that Judge Merchan recuse himself from the case, calling him “totally compromised.”

The expanded gag order, which was granted at the request of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin L. Bragg, aims to protect the integrity of the judicial proceedings and prevent the intimidation of witnesses and trial participants. In his ruling, Justice Merchan rejected Trump’s argument that his statements were “core political speech” and emphasized the serious nature of the threat posed by the former president’s rhetoric.

“This pattern of attacking family members of presiding jurists and attorneys assigned to his cases serves no legitimate purpose,” Justice 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’ for defendant’s vitriol.”

The decision to expand the gag order has further complicated an already contentious case, which is set to begin on April 15. Trump, who is facing 34 felony counts of falsifying business records related to the reimbursement of a hush-money payment to hide a sexual encounter with porn star Stormy Daniels, has vehemently denied the charges and claims they are politically motivated.

Trump’s legal team has argued against the expanded gag order, asserting that it violates his First Amendment rights. Todd Blanche, one of Trump’s lawyers, declined to comment on the judge’s decision, while Steven Cheung, a spokesman for Trump’s campaign, called the amended gag order “unconstitutional” and stated that “the voters of America have a fundamental right to hear the uncensored voice of the leading candidate for the highest office in the land.”

The gag order imposed by Justice Merchan is not the first time Trump has faced restrictions on his public statements. In his federal criminal case in Washington, where he is accused of plotting to overturn the 2020 election, a federal appeals court upheld a similar gag order. Additionally, in his civil fraud case in New York, Trump was ordered not to comment on court staff members after viciously attacking the judge’s principal law clerk, resulting in $15,000 in fines when he violated the order.

As the trial date approaches, the stakes continue to rise for all parties involved. In a court filing on Monday, District Attorney Bragg’s office requested that Justice Merchan warn Trump of the consequences of violating the gag order, using strong language to underscore the severity of the situation.

“Defendant’s dangerous, violent and reprehensible rhetoric fundamentally threatens the integrity of these proceedings and is intended to intimidate witnesses and trial participants alike — including this court,” Bragg’s office wrote.

Justice Merchan, in his five-page ruling, acknowledged Trump’s right “to speak to the American voters freely and to defend himself publicly” but emphasized the need to balance those rights with the potential impact on the trial.

“It is no longer just a mere possibility or a reasonable likelihood that there exists a threat to the integrity of the judicial proceedings,” the judge wrote. “The threat is very real.”

Trump’s unrelenting attacks on Judge Merchan and his family, including his unfounded accusations against the judge’s daughter, are truly reprehensible and represent a dangerous escalation of his violent intimidation tactics. We have already witnessed the deadly consequences of Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric on January 6th, when he incited a violent mob that murdered several capitol police officers. 

If his statements could motivate such horrific actions on that day, there is a very real threat that his deranged supporters may attempt to harm Judge Merchan, his daughter, or others involved in this trial. This is an absolutely unacceptable abuse of his public platform and undermines the integrity of our judicial system. Trump’s despicable behavior demonstrates a flagrant disregard for the rule of law and the security of those simply doing their jobs. His reckless actions are putting lives at risk, and any further violations should result in pre-trial detention.