AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura

Still Gagged: NY Appeals Court Upholds Order Stifling Trump Speech in Manhattan Trial

Define irony: Issuing a gag order in a “hush money” case. 

Former President Donald Trump is on trial in Manhattan for allegedly paying Stormy Daniels to stay quiet (but identifying said payment as a “legal expense”) yet remains subject to an order from Judge Juan Merchan compelling him to be quiet. 

On Tuesday, a New York appeals court upheld Merchan’s order, which prohibits Trump from commenting publicly on witnesses, court staff, prosecutors, or the judge’s family. 

“Justice Merchan properly determined that petitioner’s public statements posed a significant threat to the integrity of the testimony of witnesses and potential witnesses in this case as well,” the decision from the five-judge panel reads. 
In the decision, the panel compares Merchan’s gag order to a gag imposed on Trump in his federal election interference case. The New York judges aligned with the District of Columbia U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision to allow Trump’s gag there to stand. 
“Weighing these concerns, the circuit court ultimately concluded that, given the record, the court had ‘a duty to act proactively to prevent the creation of an atmosphere of fear or intimidation aimed at preventing trial participants and staff from performing their functions within the trial process,’” the five-judge panel wrote. “This Court adopts the reasoning in the circuit court’s Federal Restraining Order Decision.”

Trump has already run afoul of the order with several social media posts and been fined $10,000 and threatened with incarceration. 


NEW: Judge Finds Trump Violated Gag Order, Fines Him $9,000, but Agrees He Can Attend Barron’s Graduation

Donald Trump Faces Possible Jail Time for Gag Order Violation in Manhattan Case

As Trump’s attorneys have pointed out, the order prevents Trump from responding to attacks lobbed at him from witnesses like Stormy Daniels and Michael Cohen, though Cohen did ultimately receive an admonishment on Friday from the court, via the prosecution, to zip it.


Judge Merchan Tells Michael Cohen to Zip It—Stop Yapping About the Trump Trial

Should Trump’s legal team opt to appeal, the next stop would be the New York Court of Appeals (the state’s highest court). As noted in our coverage of the trial, the prosecution has signaled that Cohen, who will retake the stand for further cross-examination by the defense on Thursday, is their last intended witness. This means the defense likely will start putting on their case Monday, and the case could be submitted to the jury soon after Memorial Day, so any ruling from the Court of Appeals (or, ultimately, the U.S. Supreme Court) would largely be moot by the time it’s made. Still, there are First Amendment implications, and Trump’s team will have to determine if it’s a battle worth waging on principle. 


Tuesday at Trump’s Trial – Cohen Cross-Examined (Trump Trial – Day 17)

Monday in Manhattan: Prosecution’s ‘Star’ Witness, Michael Cohen, Takes the Stand (Trump Trial – Day 16)

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