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Judge overseeing Donald Trump’s hush money case expands gag order

NEW YORK — A New York judge overseeing Donald Trump’s upcoming criminal trial expanded an existing gag order on the former president on Monday.

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Justice Juan Merchan barred Trump from attacking the judge’s family members, who had been targeted by the former president on social media, The New York Times reported.

Last week, Merchan issued an order prohibiting Trump from attacking witnesses, prosecutors, court staff members and jurors, according to the newspaper. The order also extended to their family members.

The order did not cover Merchan or Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who is prosecuting the case against Trump.

“This pattern of attacking family members of presiding jurists and attorneys assigned to his cases serves no legitimate purpose,” Merchan 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.”

Trump had falsely accused Merchan’s daughter of posting a photograph of him behind bars on an account on X, formerly known as Twitter. Court officials said the account cited by Trump had been taken over last year by someone other than Merchan’s daughter, the Times reported.

On Thursday, Trump stepped up his criticism, calling out the judge’s daughter by name and accusing her of being “a Rabid Trump Hater,” according to the newspaper.

The former president renewed his calls for the judge to recuse himself, calling Merchan “totally compromised.”

On Easter Sunday, Trump posted on his Truth Social media platform, writing in all capital letters, the Post reported.

“Happy Easter to all, including crooked and corrupt prosecutors and judges that are doing everything possible to interfere with the presidential election of 2024, and put me in prison,” the former president wrote.

Trump has argued he has a First Amendment right to defend himself and engage in campaign speech, CNN reported.

“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,” the filing by Trump’s attorneys stated.

Todd Blanche, one of Trump’s attorneys, declined to comment on Monday.

James filed the lawsuit against Trump and his family business in 2022, the Times reported.

Judge Arthur Engoron ruled in the trial -- there was no jury -- in favor of New York State and imposed a $355 million penalty, which ballooned to $454 million after interest was added, according to the newspaper.

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