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Trump hush-money trial: Judge issues gag order

NEW YORK — A New York judge on Tuesday prohibited former President Donald Trump from making public comments about witnesses, prosecutors and jurors related to his upcoming criminal trial in the state, which is set to begin next month.

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In his order, Judge Juan Merchan pointed to previous statements made by Trump, including comments he made at a news conference Monday in which he called a prosecutor in the case, Matthew Colangelo, a “radical leftist from the DOJ” who was “put into the District Attorney’s Office to run the trial against Trump.”

“The uncontested record reflecting the Defendant’s prior extrajudicial statements establishes a sufficient risk to the administration of justice … and there exists no less restrictive means to prevent such risk,” Merchan wrote.

Prosecutors asked for a gag order in February, pointing to Trump’s “long history of making public and inflammatory remarks” about people involved in his legal cases. The former president’s attorneys argued that prohibiting Trump’s speech would hurt his ability to respond to political opponents amid the 2024 race for the White House.

Merchan said in his order Tuesday that Trump’s previous statements went beyond defending himself against attacks from public figures.

“Indeed, his statements were threatening, inflammatory, denigrating, and the targets of his statements ranged from local and federal officials, court and court staff, prosecutors and staff assigned to the cases, and private individuals including grand jurors performing their civic duty,” Merchan wrote.

“The consequences of those statements included not only fear on the part of the individual targeted, but also the assignment of increased security resources to investigate threats and protect the individuals and family members thereof.”

He dismissed claims from Trump’s attorneys that earlier orders, including one issued this month to ensure juror anonymity, went far enough, saying that with the trial coming up in weeks, “it is without question that the imminency of the risk of harm is now paramount.”

The order bars Trump from making public comments about witnesses in the case, prosecutors — not including the district attorney — members of the court or district attorney’s staff and family members of prosecutors or staff members. Trump is also prohibited from making public comments about jurors or prospective jurors involved in the case.

Jury selection in the case is set to begin April 15.

Trump faces 34 counts of first-degree falsifying business records in connection with hush-money payments made to adult film star Storm Daniels ahead of the 2016 election. Authorities said the funds were aimed at getting him into the White House.

Trump has pleaded not guilty and denied any wrongdoing.

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