Judge Expands Gag Order in Trump’s Criminal Hush Money Case to Include Family Members Amid Concerns for Trial’s Integrity

New York City – The judge presiding over former President Donald Trump’s criminal hush money case has extended a limited gag order to include family members of both the judge and the district attorney. This decision comes after prosecutors raised concerns about Trump targeting the judge’s daughter on social media due to her involvement with a Democratic political group.

Last week, Judge Juan Merchan issued a limited gag order that prevented Trump from making comments about potential witnesses, jurors, lawyers, court staff, and their families. However, the order allowed Trump to continue making public comments about both Merchan and District Attorney Alvin Bragg.

Prosecutors requested clarification on whether the limited gag order also applied to the judge’s family and relatives of Bragg. In response, Judge Merchan acknowledged Trump’s constitutional right to speak freely but highlighted the influence his words have on others and the concerns expressed by witnesses regarding their participation in the trial.

Merchan emphasized the need to protect the integrity of the judicial proceedings, stating that the threats are now extending beyond swaying opinions and directly impacting individuals’ willingness to fulfill their lawful duty. He argued that the threat is real and expanded the gag order accordingly.

In a statement, Trump campaign spokesperson Steven Cheung criticized the ruling, claiming that it infringes on the former president’s First Amendment rights.

This ruling followed a letter from the district attorney’s office, which expressed grave concerns about witness safety due to Trump’s attacks on the judge’s daughter. The prosecution argued that Trump’s rhetoric not only threatens the integrity of the proceedings but also intends to intimidate witnesses and trial participants.

Defense attorneys argued for Trump’s right to address these issues, emphasizing that his statements should align with his position as a leading presidential candidate and should not interfere with the trial or cause harm to anyone. They also sought permission to file a motion requesting Merchan’s recusal from the case, citing the judge’s daughter’s involvement with a political group that benefits financially from the trial’s publicity.

Trump pleaded not guilty last April to a 34-count indictment related to falsifying business records. The trial, scheduled to begin on April 15 in New York City, will address a hush money payment made by Trump’s former attorney, Michael Cohen, to adult film actress Stormy Daniels days before the 2016 presidential election.

The judge’s decision to expand the gag order reflects concerns about the potential impact of Trump’s words on the trial and the individuals involved. As the trial looms, the clash between Trump’s right to free speech and the need to ensure a fair and unbiased judicial process continues to unfold.