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Manhattan prosecutors ask judge to keep Trump’s gag order active after hush-money verdict

The former president asked the court on Tuesday to drop the gag order now that his trial is over.

MANHATTAN (CN) — Manhattan prosecutors on Wednesday urged New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan not to drop Donald Trump’s gag order, even though the former president’s criminal trial ended last week.

Tuesday night, Trump’s defense team filed a pre-motion letter asking the judge to terminate Trump’s gag order — imposed by Merchan in March to protect the trial’s witnesses, jurors and court employees — now that the trial is over.

“Now that the trial is concluded, the concerns articulated by the government and the court do not justify continued restrictions on the First Amendment rights of President Trump — who remains the leading candidate in the 2024 presidential election — and the American people,” Trump’s attorney Todd Blanche wrote in a letter to the court.

Blanche argued that the gag order impedes Trump’s “unrestrained campaign advocacy,” citing President Joe Biden’s public statements about Trump’s guilty verdict, the upcoming presidential debate scheduled for late June and repeated comments on the case from trial witnesses Stormy Daniels and Michael Cohen.

“The defense does not concede that there was ever a valid basis for the gag order and reserves the right to challenge the irreparable First Amendment harms caused by the order,” Blanche added in a footnote.

But the district attorney’s office on Wednesday claimed that the gag order is still necessary to protect the court’s integrity moving forward.

“Defendant’s letter asserts that the stated bases for the court's orders no longer exist ‘because the trial has concluded,’” Matthew Colangelo wrote in a letter. “The court's orders, however, were based not only on the need to avoid threats to the fairness of the trial itself … but also on the court's broader ‘obligation to prevent actual harm to the integrity of the proceedings’; to protect ‘the orderly administration of this court’; and to avoid ‘risk[s] to the administration of justice.’”

Colangelo argued that the proceedings are far from over, even if the trial is. As such, he claimed the gag order still serves its intended purpose.

“The court has an obligation to protect the integrity of these proceedings and the fair administration of justice at least through the sentencing hearing and the resolution of any post-trial motions,” Colangelo added.

Both parties requested further briefing on the matter, which Merchan has yet to approve.

Throughout the six-week trial, Trump violated his gag order a total of 10 times and was fined $10,000. Most of Trump’s infractions came via inflammatory social media posts, in which the former president attacked witnesses and even the jury.

In April, prosecutors chided Trump for sharing a doctored quote from Fox News host Jesse Waters about “undercover liberal activists lying to the judge in order to get on the Trump jury” on Truth Social. Merchan fined Trump $1,000 for that post.

On Trump’s tenth offense in May, the judge threatened him with jail time if he continued to ignore the court’s order.

“It appears that the $1,000 fines are not serving as a deterrent,” Merchan said. “Therefore, going forward, this court will have to consider a jail sanction if recommended.”

Trump continues to lament the order in rallies and media appearances. Last week, he complained that he was still under a “nasty” gag order from Merchan, but he pushed its limits when attacking Cohen, albeit not by name.

“I’m not allowed to use his name because of the gag order, but you know he’s a sleazebag,” Trump said of his ex-lawyer.

A Manhattan jury last week found that Trump conspired to interfere with the 2016 presidential election by covering up bad press about his campaign, then fudging records to cover his tracks. The jurors found Trump guilty of 34 counts of falsifying business records, making him the first president in American history to be a convicted felon.

Merchan will sentence Trump on July 11. The former president could face jail time.

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Categories / Criminal, National, Politics, Trials

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