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Judge broadens Trump's restriction on speaking after ex-president's social media posts about judge's daughter

NEW YORK — The judge in Donald Trump’s April 15 hush-money criminal trial declared his family off-limits to the former president’s rancor on Monday, expanding a gag order days after Trump assailed his daughter and made false claims about her

The judge in Donald Trump’s criminal trial for hush-money on April 15 declared his family off-limits to the former president’s anger on Monday. This expanded a gag order after Trump criticized his daughter and made false statements about her on social media.

Manhattan Judge Juan M. Merchan changed a one-week-old ban on Trump making public statements about witnesses, jurors, and others involved with the case. This happened after the presumptive Republican nominee attacked Loren Merchan, a Democratic political consultant, in several posts on his Truth Social platform.

Trump can still criticize Merchan and another key figure in the case, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg. But now, under the updated gag order, the D.A.’s family is also off-limits from his rhetoric.

Merchan wrote, “This pattern of attacking family members of presiding jurists and attorneys assigned to his cases serves no legitimate purpose.” He added, “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.”

If Trump violates the order, he could be held in contempt of court, fined, or even jailed.

Trump’s lawyer, Susan Necheles, declined to comment. A spokesperson for the district attorney’s office also declined to comment.

Trump’s hush-money case is one of four criminal cases against him. It revolves around allegations that he falsely recorded payments to his former lawyer Michael Cohen as legal fees when they were for Cohen’s work covering up negative stories about Trump during the 2016 campaign. This included $130,000 Cohen paid to porn actor Stormy Daniels on Trump’s behalf so she wouldn’t make public her claim of a sexual encounter with him years earlier.

Last April, Trump pleaded not guilty to 34 counts of falsifying business records, which is a felony punishable by up to four years in prison. However, there is no certainty that a conviction would lead to jail time. He denies having sex with Daniels, and his lawyers have stated that the payments to Cohen were legitimate legal expenses, not part of any cover-up.

Last Wednesday, Trump set off a controversy when he suggested on Truth Social, without evidence, that Merchan’s rulings were influenced by his daughter’s political consulting interests. He also wrongly claimed that she had posted a photo on social media showing him behind bars.

Trump complained that the judge was “wrongfully attempting to deprive me of my First Amendment Right to speak out against the Weaponization of Law Enforcement” by Democratic rivals. He also accused Loren Merchan of “making money by working to ‘Get Trump.’”

Trump’s posts placed Merchan in an unusual position as a judge and a father. Just two weeks before jury selection in the historic first-ever criminal trial of a former president, Trump’s lawyers and prosecutors argued in a series of court filings over the limits of the original gag order and whether Trump had exceeded them.

Merchan said on Monday that there is a very real threat to the fairness of the judicial proceedings, and admonitions and self-restraint are not enough to address it.

Merchan responded to prosecutors' request to clarify the scope of the gag order and to instruct Trump to stop attacking family members.

Assistant District Attorney Joshua Steinglass urged Merchan to clearly inform Trump that the gag order protects the judge’s family, Bragg’s family, and the family members of all other individuals it covers. He also asked Merchan to warn Trump to stop his recent inappropriate behavior.

Trump’s lawyers opposed the gag order and its expansion, expressing concerns about restricting Trump’s speech while he’s campaigning for president and facing criminal charges.

On Monday, Trump’s lawyers announced their intent to request Merchan's recusal from the case based on new circumstances and evidence.

Merchan refused the defense’s request to step aside from the case last year when they first raised concerns about his daughter’s consulting work and questioned his donations to Democratic causes during the 2020 campaign.

Merchan stated that a state court ethics panel found his daughter's work had no impact on his impartiality. He affirmed his ability to be fair and impartial and stated that Trump’s lawyers had failed to show realistic reasons for his recusal.

Trump’s original gag order, issued last Tuesday, prohibited him from making or directing others to make public statements about jurors or potential witnesses in the hush-money trial, including his lawyer-turned-nemesis Michael Cohen and porn star Stormy Daniels.

The order, similar to the one in Trump’s Washington, D.C., election interference case, also prohibits any statements meant to interfere with or harass the court’s staff, prosecution team, or their families. The newly expanded ban includes comments about Merchan’s and Bragg’s families.

Merchan, in expanding the gag order, also warned Trump that he’ll forfeit his right to see the names of jurors if he engages in conduct that threatens their safety or integrity.

The judge in Donald Trump’s April 15 hush-money criminal trial declared his family off-limits to the former president’s rancor on Monday, expanding a gag order days after Trump assailed his daughter and made false claims about her on social media.

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