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DA claims Trump violated gag order with post about Judge’s daughter

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Manhattan prosecutors have asserted that former President Donald Trump breached a gag order in his hush-money criminal case by targeting the judge’s daughter and disseminating false information about her on social media. The Manhattan district attorney’s office petitioned Judge Juan M. Merchan to specify the extent of the gag order issued earlier in the week and to instruct Trump to refrain from attacking family members immediately.

In a letter addressed to Judge Merchan, Assistant District Attorney Joshua Steinglass contended that the gag order explicitly prohibits statements aimed at interfering with or harassing the court’s personnel or their families, rendering the judge’s daughter off-limits from Trump’s verbal assaults. Steinglass advocated for repercussions in the event of further infractions by Trump.

Trump’s legal representatives argued against the prosecution’s interpretation of the gag order, asserting that it does not forbid him from discussing Loren Merchan, a political consultant whose firm has collaborated on campaigns for Trump’s political adversaries. They emphasized that the court cannot mandate actions beyond the scope of the gag order.

Scheduled to commence on April 15, the trial centers on allegations that Trump manipulated payment records to conceal unfavorable reports during his 2016 presidential bid. Trump maintains his innocence, pleading not guilty to 34 counts of falsifying business records.

Trump’s posts on his Truth Social platform on Wednesday falsely implicated Loren Merchan in endeavors against him, including an erroneous accusation regarding a social media image depicting him incarcerated. A spokesperson for New York’s state court system refuted Trump’s claim, clarifying that the referenced social media account was unrelated to Loren Merchan.

In the same online posts, Trump criticized the legality of the gag order, alleging that it infringed upon his First Amendment rights. While the gag order prohibits Trump from making or influencing public statements concerning jurors or potential witnesses, it also bars statements intended to obstruct or harass court personnel or their families. Despite being permitted to criticize Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, Trump’s recent conduct prompted prosecutors to request that his family members be safeguarded from similar attacks.

Assistant District Attorney Steinglass urged Judge Merchan to emphasize to Trump the protections extended to families under the gag order and to admonish him to cease his recent behavior. Violation of the gag order could lead to consequences such as contempt of court, fines, or imprisonment. Trump’s legal team raised constitutional concerns about further limitations on his speech, hinting at potential complications in trial proceedings should the matter be pursued by prosecutors.

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