Trump’s gag order appeal is shot down by New York’s top court

Court of appeals rejects his attempt to lift a gag order that blocks him from attacking witnesses and jurors

Alex Woodward
in New York
Tuesday 18 June 2024 17:44 BST
5 key moments in the Trump Trial

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New York’s highest court has rejected Donald Trump’s demand for a swift appeal of a court ruling that shot down his claims that a gag order in his hush money trial violates his First Amendment rights.

A decision from the New York Court of Appeals on Tuesday said that “no substantial constitutional question is directly involved” in his challenge to the gag order.

The former president was found guilty on 34 counts of falsifying business records in connection with a scheme to unlawfully influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election by paying off an adult film star whose story about having sex with Trump threatened to derail his campaign.

A gag order in the case is intended to block him from publicly attacking witnesses, jurors, court staff and their families.

Last month, a New York appeals court rejected his request to throw out the gag order, saying New York Justice Juan Merchan “properly determined” that Trump’s public statements “posed a significant threat to the integrity of the testimony of witnesses and potential witnesses.”

A state appeals court had already rejected his attempt to stall the trial while he challenged the constitutionality of the gag order.

Trump’s attorneys are now asking the judge to lift the order following his conviction, arguing that those retrictions are no longer necessary. Prosecutors with the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office are expected to formally respond to that request this month.

Donald Trump appears in criminal court in Manhattan during his hush money trial on May 21. New York’s highest court rejected his request for a swift appeal of a gag order in the case on June 18.
Donald Trump appears in criminal court in Manhattan during his hush money trial on May 21. New York’s highest court rejected his request for a swift appeal of a gag order in the case on June 18. (AP)

Trump was fined $10,000 for 10 statements posted on Truth Social directed at witnesses and the jury during the trial, and Judge Merchan threatened him with jail if he continued to violate the terms of the order.

“Your continued violations … threaten to interfere with the administration of justice, and constitute a direct attack on the rule of law,” Judge Merchan told Trump in the courtroom in April.

While he claimed that he would rather face jail time than comply with the gag order, the former president ultimately evaded scrutiny from prosecutors and the judge in the final weeks of his trial, even as a parade of his surrogates lashed out at witnesses and the judge’s daughter, and as Trump himself took aim at the prosecution’s star witness Michael Cohen.

In a letter to the judge after Trump was convicted, defense attorney Todd Blanche claimed the basis for the gag order no longer exists, and that recent statements from President Joe Biden, Cohen and Stormy Daniels entitle him to a response.

He also argued the gag order should be lifted ahead of a June 27 presidential debate.

In a letter to the judge in response, prosecutor Matthew Colangelo wrote that the gag order was necessary “not only on the need to avoid threats to the fairness of the trial itself” but to protect the integrity of the proceedings and the “orderly administration” of the court.

Despite the conclusion of the jury trial, “those interests have not abated, and the Court has an obligation to protect the integrity of these proceedings and the fair administration of justice at least through the sentencing hearing and the resolution of any post-trial motions,” he wrote.

Trump has not yet been sentenced, and he said he intends to appeal the jury verdict.

He is scheduled to be sentenced on July 11.

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