New York Appeals Court Upholds Gag Order Targeting Trump

New York Appeals Court Upholds Gag Order Targeting Trump
Former President Donald Trump attends his trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments linked to extramarital affairs, at Manhattan Criminal Court in New York City, on May 14, 2024. (Michael M. Santiago/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)

A New York court on Tuesday upheld a gag order that a lower court judge placed on former President Donald Trump in his ongoing criminal trial.

The order, imposed on the former president in March by Judge Juan Merchan, prohibits him from commenting on court staff, prosecutors, potential witnesses, and members of the jury. It was later expanded by Judge Merchan to include members of his own family, and the order doesn’t block President Trump from making comments about Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg and the judge himself.

The judge “properly determined that petitioner’s public statements posed a significant threat to the integrity of the testimony of witnesses and potential witnesses in this case as well,” read a decision from a panel of five judges on New York Supreme Court’s First Appellate Division, issued Tuesday.

Specifically, according to the ruling, Trump challenged restrictions on his ability to comment about Matthew Colangelo, a former Justice Department official who is a part of the prosecution team, and Judge Merchan’s daughter, the head of a political consulting firm that has worked for President Trump’s rival Joe Biden and other Democratic candidates.

“Notably, petitioner does not argue that the Restraining Order has impinged upon his Sixth Amendment rights, or that he is unable to receive a fair trial because of the Restraining Order,” the order continued, rejecting President Trump’s arguments that the order should be rescinded because it restricts “his ability to engage in protected political speech” or “may have some adverse impact on his campaign.”

Mr. Colangelo was targeted in a recent Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit filed by Republican Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey, who said he wants Department of Justice communications with prosecutors who have charged the former president with various crimes. The official said he is concerned that Mr. Colangelo is allegedly being directed by the federal government to bring a case against the former president.

President Trump’s attorneys have not publicly responded to the ruling.

Under the order, President Trump has been fined $10,000 for what Judge Merchan said are violations of his gag order, and last week, he threatened him with jail time if he continues to violate his order.

As a result, the former president has told reporters in various public appearances that he cannot comment on the specifics of the case and has said in a social media post that he cannot respond to “lies and false statements” about him. It came as witness Stormy Daniels, a pornography performer whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, made salacious allegations about the former president, which he has denied.

NTD Photo
(Left) Former President Donald Trump attends his trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments linked to extramarital affairs, at Manhattan Criminal Court in New York City, on May 14, 2024. (Right) Former Donald Trump attorney Michael Cohen departs from his home to attend his second day of testimony at Manhattan Criminal Court in New York City on May 14, 2024. (Michael M. Santiago/Pool/AFP via Getty Images; David Dee Delgado/Getty Images)

President Trump said that he would be willing to go to jail for what he characterized as a violation of his First Amendment rights. Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the U.S. Secret Service told The Epoch Times that the agency would protect the former president if he is jailed, although details about what that may look like were not provided.

In the case, President Trump is charged with 34 counts of falsifying business records over an alleged payment scheme to former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, who said he paid Ms. Daniels $130,000 at the end of the 2016 election to not speak about an alleged affair that the former president has denied. President Trump said that there was no wrongdoing with the Cohen payments and has pleaded not guilty to the charges brought by Mr. Bragg, a Democrat.

The former president’s lawyers last week told Judge Merchan that they were concerned about comments that Mr. Cohen had made in public about their client. The judge then directed prosecutors to tell Mr. Cohen that he should not make any more public comments about the case.

Ahead of Tuesday’s trial date, President Trump appeared to respond to Mr. Cohen’s testimony on Monday. “I had a legal expense and I marked it down as a legal expense. I didn’t mark it down as a construction of wall, construction of a building, I didn’t mark it down as electricity,” he said outside the courtroom.

“You ask me questions, I’m not allowed to respond,” he told reporters. “The gag order has to come off.”

The former president also has been quoting various legal analysts, including George Washington professor Jonathan Turley, to denigrate the trial.

“After Bragg closes the prosecution’s case, the defense will make a standard motion for dismissal. Merchan should grant that motion. There has been no showing of an actual crime,” President Trump wrote on Truth Social on Tuesday, quoting Mr. Turley. He added, “Merchan has failed to protect the rights of the defendant from a baseless, politically motivated prosecution.”

The trial is anticipated to last about two more weeks. Prosecutors have indicated that Mr. Cohen may be the last witness they will call.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

From The Epoch Times

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