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Trump Campaign Rages After Gag Order Expanded: ‘Unconstitutional’

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Former President Donald Trump’s 2024 presidential campaign is raging against the expansion of a gag order in the former president’s New York hush-money case, insisting that the order prevents “core political speech.”

New York State Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan expanded the gag order to include prohibitions on Trump making statements about the families of the justice and Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who on Friday requested the move in a letter sent to Merchan. Trump earlier last week made two social media posts denouncing Merchan’s daughter as a “super liberal” operative for Democrats.

Merchan did not include himself, Bragg or their family members while issuing a limited gag order against the former president on Tuesday. Trump lawyer Todd Blanche opposed Bragg’s request to “clarify” the gag order on Friday, arguing that it would not be “appropriate” to expand the order because the district attorney’s letter had only cited two cases of Trump attacking the justice’s daughter.

In Merchan’s ruling on Monday, Trump was also warned that he would “forfeit any statutory right he may have to access juror names if he engages in any conduct that threatens the safety and integrity of the jury or the jury selection process,” a stipulation that had been requested in a filing from Bragg’s office on the same day.

Donald Trump Gag Order Expansion Campaign Reaction
Former President Donald Trump on Thursday is pictured in Massapequa, New York. New York State Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan on Monday expanded a limited gag order against Trump in his hush-money criminal case.

ANGELA WEISS/AFP

Trump campaign spokesperson Steven Cheung denounced the expansion of the order as an assault on free speech that limits the ability of Trump, the presumptive GOP nominee in this year’s presidential election, to “speak out” against “unconstitutional tyranny.” He also claimed, without evidence, that Bragg was working under orders from President Joe Biden.

“Judge Merchan’s unconstitutional Gag Order prevents President Trump—the leading candidate for President of the United States—from engaging in core political speech, which is entitled to the highest level of protection under the First Amendment,” Cheung said in a statement.

“Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg, at the direction of Crooked Joe Biden, chose to indict President Trump in the middle of campaign season in a politically motivated attempt to derail his candidacy, and the First Amendment allows President Trump to speak out against this unconstitutional tyranny,” he added.

Cheung went on to say that the order “violates the civil rights of over 100 million Americans who follow President Trump and have a First Amendment right to receive and listen to his speech,” arguing that voters “have a fundamental right to hear the uncensored voice of the leading candidate for the highest office in the land.”

Newsweek reached out for comment to the offices of Trump and Bragg via email on Monday night.

While the expanded order limits Trump’s ability to publicly disparage the families of Merchan and Bragg, there are still no explicit restrictions against the former president attacking the justice and the district attorney themselves.

Bragg, who hit the former president with the first of four criminal indictments last year, urged Merchan to “make it abundantly clear” to Trump that the order covers their family members and “immediately desist” from further attacks in his letter last week.

Blanche complained in his letter that the request had been made “while [former] President Trump and defense counsel are preparing for trial.” The New York criminal trial is scheduled to begin in only two weeks, although Trump’s legal team has vowed to appeal for a further delay.

New York prosecutors have charged Trump with 34 felonies, accusing him of falsifying business records and concealing hush-money payments made to adult-film actress Stephanie Clifford, also known as Stormy Daniels, during his 2016 presidential campaign.

Trump has pleaded not guilty to all of his criminal charges and insists that his legal difficulties, which include a number of recent civil judgments, are part of a coordinated effort by Democrats to block him from returning to the White House.