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Trump Fails To Persuade Court That Attacking Family Members Is ‘Core First Amendment’ Speech

(Photo by Brendan McDermid-Pool/Getty Images)

Last night, Justice Juan Merchan expanded Trump’s gag order in the New York hush money case to cover the judge’s own family members, as well as those of District Attorney Alvin Bragg.

After the court imposed a limited gag order last week modeled on the one imposed by Judge Tanya Chutkan in DC and approved by the DC Circuit, the former president went on a social media bender, attacking Justice Merchan’s daughter, who leads a Democratic consulting firm. He posted her photo on Truth Social, along with her name, and claimed that she “has just posted a picture of me behind bars, her obvious goal, and makes it completely impossible for me to get a fair trial.”

A spokesman for the court says that Merchan’s daughter left Twitter a year ago, and the account in question no longer belongs to her.

“It is not linked to her email address, nor has she posted under that screenname since she deleted the account,” the spokesman told The Daily Beast. “Rather, it represents the reconstitution, last April, and manipulation of an account she long ago abandoned.”

But that hasn’t stopped Trump, or his lawyers, from screaming about it.

Last week, the DA requested clarification and/or expansion of the existing order to ensure that, even as it allows Trump carte blanche to abuse Justice Merchan and DA Bragg, their families are off limits. And the parties submitted briefs yesterday in support of their respective positions.

Trump continued to insist that it’s his First Amendment right to rain terror down on his enemies, and he promises to renew his motion for Justice Merchan’s recusal:

President Trump’s campaign advocacy on issues that bear on his candidacy, as well as the appearance of impropriety associated with these proceedings that warrants recusal, is not a basis for violating the First and Sixth Amendments yet again by expanding the gag order. Such an expansion would be particularly inappropriate in light of the fact that the Court appears to have recently violated Canon by making public statements about the case, and, separately, used the Office of Court Administration to respond to media reports relating to Your Honor’s daughter. Under these circumstances, President Trump must be permitted to speak on these issues in a manner that is consistent with his position as the leading presidential candidate and his defense, which is not intended to materially interfere with these proceedings or cause harm to anyone.

To be clear, the dastardly public statement at issue here is the judge telling the AP that he has “done everything I could to be prepared and to make sure that we dispense justice,” and that “We want to follow the law. We want justice to be done.”

The DA’s brief consisted mostly of shouting CUT THE SHIT! over and over again:

There is no constitutional right to target the family of this Court, let alone on the blatant falsehoods that have served as the flimsiest pretexts for defendant’s attacks. Defendant knows what he is doing, and everyone else does too. And we all know exactly what defendant intends because he has said for decades that it is part of his life philosophy to go after his perceived opponents “as viciously and as violently” as he can. He has said for decades that he attacks his perceived opponents “viciously” and “violently” both “because it is a good feeling and because other people will see you doing it.” And he promised very recently that “IF YOU GO AFTER ME, I’M COMING AFTER YOU!” He is carrying out that promise right now.

The prosecutors also renewed their motion to conceal the names of the jurors from the defendant, in light of his aggressive behavior.

Justice Merchan responded almost immediately, granting most of the DA’s requests.

“[T]his pattern of attacking family members of presiding jurists and attorneys assigned to his cases serves no legitimate purpose,” he wrote. “It merely injects fear in those assigned or called to participate in the proceedings, that not only they, but their family members as well, are ‘fair game’ for Defendant’s vitriol.”

“Such concerns will undoubtedly interfere with the fair administration of justice and constitutes a direct attack on the Rule of Law itself,” he scolded.

The court also had some choice words for Trump’s lawyers, who continue to go along with their client’s incitement:

The arguments counsel makes are at best strained and at worst baseless misrepresentations which are uncorroborated and rely upon innuendo and exaggeration. Put mildly, the assortment of allegations presented as “facts” and cobbled together, result in accusations that are disingenuous and not rational. To argue that the most recent attacks, which included photographs, are “necessary and appropriate in the current environment,” is farcical.

Justice Merchan also warned Trump that if he doesn’t knock it off, the court will grant the motion to deprive him of the jurors names, forcing his lawyers to fly blind in jury selection two weeks from now.

As is his wont, Trump responded by yelling on social media about “ELECTION INTERFERENCE at its worst!”

Trump Truth Social Post: I just was informed that another corrupt New York Judge, Juan Merchan, GAGGED me so that I can not talk about the corruption and conflicts taking place in his courtroom with respect to a case that everyone, including the D.A., felt should never have been brought. They can talk about me, but I can’t talk about them??? That sounds fair, doesn’t it? This Judge should be recused, and the case should be thrown out. There has virtually never been a more conflicted judge than this one. ELECTION INTERFERENCE at its worst!

Just post through it, dude. It’s definitely helping.


Liz Dye lives in Baltimore where she produces the Law and Chaos substack and podcast.

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