Trump wants silence lifted after secret trial verdict

Image source, Getty Images

  • Author, Max Matza
  • Role, BBC News

Former US President Donald Trump’s lawyers have asked the judge overseeing the New York hush money case to lift his silence now that the trial is over.

In a letter sent Monday to Judge Juan Merchan, they argued that the court’s concerns “do not warrant broad restrictions” on Trump’s free speech rights.

The prosecutor in the landmark case — in which Trump was convicted of 34 counts of falsifying business records — is pressuring the judge to keep the order in place, “at least until sentencing hearing.”

The silence order was issued on March 26, prohibiting Trump from speaking publicly about witnesses, jurors, prosecutors, court staff and their family members.

He is free to speak about Judge Merchan and District Attorney Alvin Bragg.

Trump’s lawyers, Todd Blanche and Emil Bove, wrote in their letter that Trump should be granted “unrestricted campaign advocacy.”

They said his case was “even stronger” after his political opponent, US President Joe Biden, spoke publicly about the matter.

They added that Trump is currently unable to defend himself against “continued public attacks” from prosecution witnesses, such as his ex-lawyer Michael Cohen and adult film actress Stormy Daniels.

The letter also cited Trump’s participation in the first presidential debate against Mr. Biden, scheduled for June 27.

Trump will be sentenced by Judge Merchan on July 11, four days before he is officially declared the Republican Party’s presidential nominee.

The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office said in its letter that the silence was not implemented solely “to avoid threats to the fairness of the trial itself” but “to protect the integrity of the procedure and the fair administration of justice. This would extend to sentencing as well as the “resolution of any post-trial motions.”

He added that he would submit a longer written response once Trump files a formal motion to lift the gag order.

Trump’s team repeatedly requested the measure be lifted throughout the trial, but these were rejected by the judge.

During the trial, Judge Merchan fined Trump $10,000 (£7,800) for violating the silence order and threatened to jail him if he continued.

“The last thing I want to think about is prison,” Judge Merchan told him in court. “You are [the] former president and perhaps the next president.

“Your continued violation of the court order… constitutes a direct attack… and will not be allowed to continue,” he said.

The order still allows Trump to criticize District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who filed charges against Trump, and Judge Merchan.

Prosecutors had argued that the silence was necessary to “protect the integrity of this criminal proceeding and avoid prejudice to the jury.”

Trump told reporters on Friday that he believed the silence order should have expired at the end of the trial and that his lawyers were seeking clarification from Judge Merchan.

“I’m under a gag order, a nasty gag order,” he said at Trump Tower after the verdict.

Referring to Cohen, a star witness for the prosecution, he said: “I’m not allowed to use his name because of the gag order.” »

Also on Friday, Mr. Biden called Trump a “convicted criminal,” telling reporters at the White House that “it literally drives him crazy.”

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