What does the gag order mean in Trump's hush money trial?

What Does The Gag Order Mean In Trump's Hush Money Trial?
Donald Trump speaks to the media as he leaves court with his attorney Todd Blanche. Photo: Getty Images
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By Luc Cohen

The judge overseeing Donald Trump's criminal trial on charges stemming from hush money paid to a porn star will on Tuesday consider prosecutors' request to fine the former US president for violating a gag order barring him from talking publicly about certain people involved in the case and their families.

Mr Trump has pleaded not guilty to falsifying business records to cover up his former lawyer Michael Cohen's $130,000 (€121,000) payment before the 2016 election to stop adult film actress Stormy Daniels from talking about a sexual encounter she says she and Mr Trump had in 2006. Mr Trump denies an encounter.


Here's why Justice Juan Merchan imposed the gag order and what it bars the Republican presidential candidate from doing:

What does the gag order do?

The March 26th order prevents Trump from making public statements about witnesses concerning their potential testimony, about jurors or prospective jurors, and about prosecutors, court staff and their family members if those statements are meant to interfere with the case.

On April 1st, Judge Merchan extended the gag order to cover his own family members and family members of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, whose office charged Mr Trump. The order does not restrict Mr Trump's statements about Judge Merchan and Mr Bragg.

Has Trump complied with the order?

Prosecutors with Mr Bragg's office said before jury selection began on April 15th that Mr Trump had violated the order with three social media posts attacking Mr Cohen and Ms Daniels.


Last Thursday, they said he had violated the gag order seven more times since Monday with posts about witnesses and prospective jurors on his campaign website and Truth Social platform.

Mr Trump's lawyers have said the posts did not run afoul of Judge Merchan's order.

What happens if Trump violates the gag order?

Mr Bragg's office has asked Judge Merchan to fine Mr Trump $1,000 for each of the 10 violations. They have also asked the judge to remind Mr Trump that he may be jailed if he continues to disregard the order.

Why did the Judge impose the gag order?

Prosecutors sought the order because they said Mr Trump had a long history of verbally attacking people involved in legal proceedings.


Judge Merchan agreed that some of Mr Trump's statements had been threatening and inflammatory and said there was a risk such comments could derail the proceedings.

The judge expanded the order to cover his family after Mr Trump disparaged his daughter online, calling her a "Rabid Trump Hater" due to her work for a political consultancy firm with Democratic clients.

What does Trump say about the order?

A $130,000 (€121,000) payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels is at the centre of the case. Photo: Getty Images

Mr Trump's lawyers had urged Judge Merchan not to impose the gag order, arguing his political opponents had attacked him based on the case and that he should have a right to respond.


After the order was imposed, his campaign said in a statement that it violated his right to free speech.

Does the order prevent Trump from talking about the case?

Key quotes from Trump's criminal hush money trial
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No. Judge Merchan wrote that Mr Trump has a constitutional right to speak to voters freely and to defend himself publicly. The order only applies to statements about specific individuals.

Has Trump faced other gag orders?

Yes. Judge Merchan's gag order is similar to restrictions a federal judge imposed last year in a criminal case over Mr Trump's efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss to Democratic president Joe Biden.

Mr Trump has pleaded not guilty in that case as well.

In a separate, civil fraud case over Mr Trump's business practices, another New York state judge fined him $15,000 last year for twice violating a gag order against publicly commenting about court staff. Mr Trump is appealing a $454.2 million judgement in that case.

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