Trump prosecutor seeks gag order ahead of ‘hush money’ trial

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Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg has asked a court to prevent Donald Trump from publicly disparaging jurors, witnesses, lawyers or court staff in the lead-up to his criminal trial next month.

In a motion filed on Monday, Bragg’s team argued that Trump had a “long history of making public and inflammatory remarks about the participants in various judicial proceedings against him” and said that his attacks on the district attorney over the past year — often on his social media site Truth Social — had already led to “hundreds of threats” against the office.

In one instance last year, “the office received a letter addressed to the district attorney containing a small amount of white powder and a note stating: ‘Alvin: I’m going to kill you’”, lawyers from the DA’s office wrote.

If imposed, the order would restrict Trump, whose attacks against Democratic prosecutors have become a common refrain in his campaign for the White House, from making such statements online, in the media or at rallies — or risk him being held in contempt of court, and even jailed. However, he would not be barred from making comments about Bragg, who is a political appointee.

Trump has also used the various cases against him — he is charged in four separate criminal cases and is a defendant in several civil lawsuits — as a fundraising tool, sending out appeals to supporters in which he disparages prosecutors and judges and asks for donations to help fight a “witch hunt”.

The request for a gag order comes less than a month before jury selection is set to begin in the district attorney’s “hush money” case against Trump, in which he is charged with paying $130,000 to buy the silence of porn star Stormy Daniels in the run-up to the 2016 election, and then disguising the transactions in his business records. Trump has pleaded not guilty in the criminal case, which will be the first against a former US president to reach trial.

The judge in the case, Juan Merchan, has barred Trump from talking about the evidence gathered by the prosecution, despite the former president’s lawyer arguing that his client’s first amendment rights were being “violated” by the protective order.

Judges overseeing other cases against Trump have imposed similar restrictions. Washington judge Tanya Chutkan issued a partial gag order last year in the federal case accusing him of seeking to overturn the 2020 presidential election, limiting statements by Trump targeting federal prosecutor Jack Smith, his staff, the judge’s own personnel, or other court employees. The order was later narrowed by an appellate court.

In a civil fraud case against Trump in Manhattan, Justice Arthur Engoron entered an order prohibiting parties from making statements about court staff, after the former president attacked the judge and his clerk on social media. Trump was later fined for violating the order.

In addition to asking for a gag order, Bragg’s team also asked the court to protect the names and addresses of potential jurors in the “hush money” case, citing “a significant risk of juror harassment and intimidation”. The practice was already adopted by the federal judge overseeing cases brought by E Jean Carroll, who claimed she was raped by Trump in the 1990s and subsequently defamed by him.

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