Trump blasts judge and his daughter after gag order

Donald Trump on Wednesday lashed out at the New York judge who imposed a hush money ban on him ahead of his April 15 hush money criminal trial, suggesting without evidence that the veteran lawyer was aligning himself with his daughter’s interests as a Democratic political adviser bowed. The former president particularly took issue with her allegedly fake social media photo that showed him behind bars.

Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, posted on social media that the gag order issued Tuesday was “illegal, un-American, unconstitutional.” He said Judge Juan M. Merchan had “unjustly sought to deprive me of my First Amendment right to speak out against Democratic rivals’ weaponization of law enforcement” and urged him to recuse himself from the case.

The gag order sought by prosecutors prohibits Trump from making public statements on his behalf about jurors and potential witnesses in the hush money trial, such as his lawyer-turned-nemesis Michael Cohen, or from directing anyone else to make public statements on his behalf about porn star Stormy Daniels. It also prohibits any speech intended to disrupt or harass court staff, prosecutors or their families.

It does not prohibit comments about Merchan or his family or criticism of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, the elected Democrat whose office is prosecuting Trump.

Merchan’s daughter, whose firm has worked on campaigns for President Joe Biden and other Democrats, “makes money advocating for ‘Trump,'” and recently posted a fake photo on social media showing her “obvious target,” him behind bars, Trump said. He argued that these circumstances “make it completely impossible for me to get a fair trial.”

Trump did not link to the alleged photo, but an account apparently belonging to Loren Merchan on X, formerly known as Twitter, featured a photo illustration of an imprisoned Trump as its profile picture on Wednesday morning. It was later changed. Loren Merchan’s consulting firm linked to the same account in a previous social media post.

“So, let me be clear,” Trump wrote on Truth Social, “the judge’s daughter is allowed to post pictures of her ‘dream’ of putting me in prison… but I’m not allowed to talk about the attacks against me.” And the crazy people trying to destroy my life and prevent me from winning the 2024 presidential election that I dominate?

“Maybe the judge is such a hater because his daughter makes money advocating for ‘Trump,’ and if he keeps ruling against me, he’s making her society and her richer and richer,” Trump continued. “How can this be allowed?”

Messages seeking comment were left with Merchan, his daughter and a spokesman for the New York state court system. Bragg’s office declined to comment.

Former U.S. President Donald Trump leaves 40 Wall Street after holding a news conference following a court hearing on his trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments related to extramarital affairs, March 25, 2024, in New York.

Former U.S. President Donald Trump leaves 40 Wall Street after holding a news conference following a court hearing on his trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments related to extramarital affairs, March 25, 2024, in New York.

Trump’s three-part Truth Social post was his first response to the gag order. His focus on Merchan’s daughter and her ties to Democratic politics echoed arguments made by his lawyers last year as they urged the judge to dismiss the case. The judge had also made several small donations totaling $35 to Democratic causes during the 2020 campaign, including $15 to Biden.

Merchan said at the time that a state court ethics panel had found that Loren Merchan’s work had no bearing on his impartiality. The judge said in a ruling last September that he was confident in his “ability to be fair and impartial” and that Trump’s lawyers “failed to demonstrate that there are concrete or even realistic reasons for the appropriateness of a challenge, let alone necessary.” .” for these reasons.”

“The judge must immediately recuse himself and right the wrong he committed by not doing so last year,” Trump wrote Wednesday. “If the biased and inconsistent judge in this bogus case is allowed to remain, it will be another sad example of our country becoming a banana republic and not the America we once knew and loved.”

In a recent interview, Merchan told The Associated Press that he and his staff were working diligently to prepare for the historic first trial of a former president.

“There is no agenda here,” Merchan said. “We want to follow the law. We want justice to prevail.”

At the heart of Trump’s hush money case, the first of his four criminal cases to go to trial, are allegations that he falsely recorded payments to Cohen as legal fees on his firm’s books even though they were used to cover up Cohen’s work during the 2016 campaign, according to negative stories about Trump. That included $130,000 that Cohen paid Daniels on Trump’s behalf to keep her from going public with her claim of a sexual encounter with him years earlier.

Trump pleaded not guilty last April to 34 counts of falsifying business records, a crime punishable by up to four years in prison, although there is no guarantee that a conviction would result in prison time. He denies having sex with Daniels and his lawyers said the payments to Cohen were legitimate legal fees and not part of a cover-up.

In issuing the gag order, Merchan noted that Trump has a history of making “threatening, inflammatory and denigrating” statements about people involved in his legal cases. A violation could result in Trump being held in contempt of court, fined or even imprisoned.

Although the restrictions don’t apply, Merchan pointed to Trump’s various comments about him as an example of his rhetoric. The gag order mirrors an order imposed and largely upheld by a federal appeals court in Trump’s election interference criminal trial in Washington.

Trump’s lawyers pushed back against a gag order, warning that it would amount to an unconstitutional and unlawful prior restriction of his free speech rights.

Merchan had long resisted imposing one, recognizing Trump’s “special” status as a former president and current candidate and not wanting to trample on his ability to publicly defend himself.

But as the trial approached, he said, he realized that his obligation to ensure the integrity of the case was more important than First Amendment concerns. He said Trump’s comments stoked fear and required additional security measures to protect his targets and investigate threats.

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