Manhattan D.A. asks for Trump gag order ahead of "hush money" trial

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Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg's office asked a New York judge on Monday to impose a "narrowly tailored" gag order restricting what former President Donald Trump can say about those involved in the criminal case against him, which is set to go to trial next month.

The request came as one of a trio of filings in the case, which revolves around reimbursements for a "hush money" payment to an adult film star days before the 2016 presidential election. Trump has pleaded not guilty to 34 criminal counts of falsifying business records.

The district attorney's office asked Judge Juan Merchan for an order barring Trump from commenting on any prospective jurors in the case, "known or reasonably foreseeable witnesses" and prosecutors besides Bragg himself. The filing also asked him to restrict Trump from publicly discussing court staffers, employees of the district attorney's office and their families.

"The relief requested here is narrowly tailored to protect the integrity of the upcoming trial while still affording defendant ample opportunity to engage in speech, including speech about this case," the district attorney's office said. "And there are no less restrictive alternatives that will adequately protect the trial from the prejudice that is reasonably likely to arise from defendant's unrestrained extrajudicial statements."

The filing noted that the request mirrors similar restrictions imposed in Trump's other legal cases. A federal appeals court largely upheld one of those orders in December.

The filing cites "a long history of making public and inflammatory remarks about the participants in various judicial proceedings against [Trump], including jurors, witnesses, lawyers, and court staff."

The request includes references to statements Trump made during another New York case, a civil fraud trial that recently ended with a $464 million judgment against him and other defendants. During that trial, Trump publicly attacked a key witness in both cases and was subjected to a gag order for maligning the judge's clerk.

An attorney for Trump, Susan Necheles, declined to comment on the district attorney's filing and said the former president's legal team "will be responding in our submissions." Steven Cheung, an attorney for Trump's presidential campaign, said in a statement that the order "would impose an unconstitutional infringement on President Trump's First Amendment rights, including his ability to defend himself," and called the case "a sham orchestrated by partisan Democrats."

The request for a gag order, as well as a second filing on Monday, highlighted a 2019 federal case against Trump ally Roger Stone. The D.A.'s filing said attempts to "expose and harass prospective jurors began almost simultaneously" with the trial. Bragg's office wrote that Trump "targeted the jury foreperson" in Stone's case, "including during a commencement address, in remarks delivered from the White House, and during a Fox News Town Hall."

Bragg's office is also seeking an order "prohibiting disclosure of juror addresses other than to counsel" and "prohibiting disclosure of juror names other than to the parties and counsel."

The filing cites Trump's "extensive history of publicly and repeatedly attacking trial jurors and grand jurors involved in legal proceedings against him and his associates, including recent proceedings in New York."

Bragg's other filing seeks a ruling blocking certain defense experts and arguments at trial, while permitting evidence related to uncharged crimes. Those arguments include that Trump was targeted due to "selective prosecution." The trial is scheduled to begin March 25.

During a 2022 criminal trial over tax fraud that Merchan also oversaw, he barred defense attorneys for Trump's company from making a "selective prosecution" argument. Merchan told lawyers that he would "have very little patience at trial for any questions that are not in a good faith basis."

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