Politics

Appeals Court Makes Decision on Trump Gag Order Challenge

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OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author’s opinion.


The New York Court of Appeals announced on Tuesday that it would not hear former President Donald Trump’s appeal of the gag order in the hush money case, for which he was found guilty last month.

The top court in the state said the appeal was not valid because there was “no substantial constitutional question directly involved.”

That means Trump is still under the gag order that was put in place by state judge Juan Merchan. The order says Trump can’t attack witnesses, prosecutors, jurors, court workers, and their families, as well as the families of the judge and Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, according to NBC News.

Trump said the order raised “constitutional questions of the highest order.”

Trump’s lawyers said the order limits his “core political speech on matters of central importance at the height of his presidential campaign, where he is the leading candidate, and thus it violates the fundamental right of every American voter to hear” his thoughts “on matters of enormous public importance.” His lawyers said it was “constitutionally important” for him to be able to talk about two important witnesses in the case: his former lawyer Michael Cohen and adult film star Stormy Daniels.

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From the DA’s office to the high court, they said that Merchan’s order did not violate the Constitution because it was “narrowly tailored” and needed because Trump has a “singular and well-documented history of leveling threatening, inflammatory, and degrading remarks against trial participants.” Prosecutors said that his “violent rhetoric” made people fear for their lives, including Bragg and his staff, and “terrified and intimidated his direct targets.”

Even though the high court made its decision on Tuesday, Trump can still ask it to hear the case. A court spokesman, Gary Spencer, said that he has 30 days to make such a motion.

Trump first asked the appeals court to step in in the middle of May, before he was found guilty of 34 criminal counts of falsifying business records. This was after he failed in a lower appeals court attempt to do the same thing.

During the trial, which ran about a month and a half, Trump yelled many times against the gag order. An investigation found that Trump had broken the order more than once. Merchan fined Trump $10,000 and said he would go to jail if it happened again.

Early in June, Trump’s lawyer Todd Blanche wrote to Merchan and asked that the gag order be lifted, saying that “the stated bases for the gag order no longer exist” since the trial was over. The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office was pursuing the case despite Trump’s legal team’s request.

After being found guilty, Trump may have broken the gag order even more by talking about two witnesses in the case: Robert Costello, who appeared for the defense, and Michael Cohen, who was the prosecution’s star witness and Trump’s former lawyer, though Trump didn’t name Cohen.

On July 11, the former president is set to be sentenced in the case. He had a pre-sentencing session with a New York probation officer over the phone on June 10.

Rep. Jim Jordan, the House Judiciary Committee chairman, has requested DA Bragg and another top state prosecutor to testify regarding Trump’s prosecution.

In letters sent on Friday to Bragg and Matthew Colangelo, senior counsel to the DA’s office, Jordan called on the prosecutors to testify before the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government on June 13. Colangelo was a high-ranking official at President Joe Biden’s Justice Department before leaving to help Bragg prosecute Trump.

“This hearing will examine actions by state and local prosecutors to engage politically motivated prosecutions of federal officials, in particular the recent political prosecution of President Donald Trump by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office,” Jordan wrote.

A jury found Trump guilty Thursday on all 34 felony counts of falsifying business records to cover up payments intended to conceal a tryst with adult film star Stormy Daniels as part of a “catch-and-kill” scheme to influence the 2016 election.

While jail time is possible, legal experts doubt that Trump will end up behind bars; sentencing is set for July 11.

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