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Wednesday, July 17, 2024 | Back issues
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New York’s high court won’t hear Trump’s gag order challenge

The appellate court shot down Trump's First Amendment gripes and kept the order active.

MANHATTAN (CN) — New York’s highest court on Tuesday declined to hear Donald Trump’s appeal of the gag order in his criminal hush-money case.

“Appeal dismissed without costs, by the court sua sponte, upon the ground that no substantial constitutional question is directly involved,” the New York Court of Appeals wrote in a brief Tuesday decision.

The decision effectively rejects Trump’s claim that the gag order violates his First Amendment rights, and means the order will remain in effect for the time being. 

New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan imposed the gag order in March, before trial even began, to keep Trump from publicly commenting on the jury, witnesses and court employees. Merchan later expanded it to include his own family members and those of prosecutors after Trump repeatedly attacked the judge’s daughter for her career as a political consultant.

Trump has made several efforts to drop the gag order already, including an unsuccessful last-ditch attempt in New York’s Appellate Division, First Department, where his lawyers argued that the order was reason enough to delay the trial altogether.

But over Trump’s objections, the trial proceeded in April. In May, a jury of 12 Manhattanites found Trump guilty of all 34 falsifying business records felonies with which he was charged.

During the trial, Trump was held in contempt of court for violating the order 10 times. Merchan fined Trump $1,000 per infraction and even threatened him with jail time after Trump continued to defy court orders.

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

Despite the trial being over, Trump’s gag order remains in effect. Merchan could change that, however. Earlier this month, Trump’s lawyers asked the judge to terminate the order, claiming that it’s interfering with Trump’s efforts to campaign for the 2024 presidency.

“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.

Manhattan prosecutors rejected that notion in a letter of their own, arguing that the gag order was imposed to protect the overall integrity of the proceedings, which aren’t over, even if the trial is. They want the order to remain in place until at least July 11, when Trump is scheduled to be sentenced.

“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,” prosecutor Matthew Colangelo wrote.

Trump’s attorneys have since submitted a formal motion to Merchan to drop the order. Prosecutors are expected to respond by Thursday, and Merchan is expected to rule after that.

Outside of court, Trump continues to lament the gag order and test its limits. In a New York press conference following his guilty verdict, Trump complained that the order was “nasty” and made an apparent reference to Michael Cohen, his ex-lawyer who was a star witness at his criminal trial.

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

Blanche declined to comment on Tuesday’s appellate decision. The Manhattan District Attorney’s office didn’t immediately respond to requests for a statement.

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Categories / Appeals, Criminal, Politics

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