Judge Juan Merchan has handed down a partial gag order to former President Donald Trump in his New York criminal case, prohibiting him from making public statements about known or foreseeable witnesses, prosecutors, court staff members, jurors, and potential jurors. The judge cited Trump’s past extrajudicial statements, which he said posed a risk to the administration of justice and could impede the orderly administration of the court. Trump’s attorneys argued that the order was unconstitutional and prevented him from engaging in core political speech, but the judge was not persuaded, noting that Trump’s public commentary had gone beyond defending himself. The ruling came after Trump made inflammatory comments about the judge, the judge’s daughter, the Manhattan District Attorney, and a key witness in the case on social media platform Truth Social.

Trump’s former lawyer and key witness in the case, Michael Cohen, expressed gratitude for the gag order, stating that he had been under relentless assault from Trump’s supporters. Cohen had pleaded guilty in 2018 to criminal charges that included making hush money deals for women who claimed to have had affairs with Trump. The case centers on payments Trump made to Cohen to cover up an alleged sexual encounter with adult film star Stormy Daniels. Trump has pleaded not guilty to charges of fraudulently falsifying New York business records. The trial is set to begin on April 15, and Merchan emphasized the imminence of the risk of harm due to the potential impact of Trump’s statements.

This is not the first time Trump has been hit with a gag order; Judge Arthur Engoron issued a partial gag order in the civil fraud trial concluded earlier this year, following threats against a law clerk after Trump’s comments about her. U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan also issued a similar order in Trump’s federal election interference case in Washington, D.C., barring him from disparaging witnesses, prosecutors, or court staff members. The Manhattan District Attorney’s office had requested the partial gag order in Trump’s case, citing his history of making inflammatory remarks about participants in legal proceedings against him and the potential threat that poses to the orderly administration of the criminal proceeding.

In addition to the gag order, Merchan also rejected Trump’s attempts to undo a new process for filing pretrial motions and shot down a motion asking for immediate visibility of public filings and the unsealing of documents in the case. The judge noted that there was a protective order in place, and any information not subject to the order could be brought to the court’s attention for review. News organizations, including the NBC News Group, had requested more prompt filing of motions and emails between the parties to the public docket, but Merchan did not address this request in his recent rulings. The case against Trump is progressing towards trial, with the judge taking steps to ensure a fair and orderly legal process despite the challenges posed by Trump’s public statements.

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