Trump Battles Hush Money Case Gag Order

Former President Donald Trump has requested a judge to dismiss prosecutors’ plea for a restricted gag order in his upcoming hush money trial in New York.

In a filing submitted on Monday, the defense team of former President Donald Trump argued that it goes against the Constitution for prosecutors, headed by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, to attempt to restrict Trump’s freedom of speech protected by the First Amendment.

The former president, who is facing a 34-count indictment, has entered a plea of not guilty. The charges were filed by Bragg’s office and are related to a series of hush money payments that were allegedly made before the 2016 presidential election. The trial for this criminal case is scheduled to commence on March 25th.

The Context

Last week, prosecutors requested New York State Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan to impose a “narrowly tailored” gag order on Trump before the trial begins. The order would prohibit the former president from making public statements about potential witnesses or jurors, as well as any comments that could interfere with or harass the court’s staff and family members. Bragg’s office emphasized in their request that Trump has consistently made “public and inflammatory remarks” about individuals involved in his past legal cases.

Bragg’s indictment revolves around accusing Trump of manipulating business records to hide the true purpose of payments he made to his former attorney, Michael Cohen, during his initial run for office. The indictment alleges that Cohen paid $130,000 to adult film star Stormy Daniels in order to keep her silent about the alleged affair between her and the former president during his 2016 campaign.

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Former President denies any relationship with Daniels, and he faces charges that could result in a prison sentence of up to four years.

What We Know

In its filing on Monday, Trump’s defense team argued that Bragg’s request goes against the former president’s right to free speech. They emphasized that American voters have the First Amendment right to listen to President Trump’s unfiltered opinions on all matters related to this case.

The filing stated that President Trump has the right to criticize public figures, and it is important for voters to hear his criticism, particularly as the Presidential campaign continues.

Bragg’s office was contacted for comment by Newsweek via email on Monday evening.

During the fall trial for his New York civil fraud suit, the former president, who is currently leading the race for the GOP presidential nomination, found himself under a gag order. This came after he verbally attacked a member of the court staff belonging to the presiding judge. Trump disobeyed the order not once, but twice, resulting in a fine of $15,000.

Views

In last week’s motion for the gag order, Bragg’s office argued that Trump’s previous comments about his legal proceedings could disrupt the orderly administration of the criminal proceeding and potentially bias the outcome. Steven Cheung, Trump’s spokesperson, criticized Bragg’s request, stating that it would infringe on Trump’s First Amendment rights and limit his ability to defend himself. Cheung also emphasized the importance of allowing all Americans to hear from President Trump.

According to a report from The New York Times, Trump has also attempted to prevent Cohen from testifying in the hush money case trial. Last week, Trump’s defense team submitted a motion stating that Cohen is a “liar” and that his public statements suggest he plans to lie once again.

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During the fall, Cohen testified against Trump in the civil fraud case in New York, and the judge ultimately determined that the former attorney spoke truthfully while on the witness stand.

What’s Next?

Merchan has a three-week deadline to make a ruling on Bragg’s request for a gag order. Meanwhile, Trump is actively preparing for the Super Tuesday primary elections taking place in over a dozen states this week, as he continues to move forward with his campaign for reelection.

As of 03/4/24 at 6:57 p.m. ET, this article has been revised to include more information and background.

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