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Trump gag order partially lifted in hush money case ahead of presidential debate

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On Tuesday, NY Judge Juan Merchan partially lifted former President Donald Trump’s gag order in his New York hush money trial, following the former president’s conviction last month on 34 felony counts of falsifying business records. The move comes two days before the former president faces off against President Joe Biden in the first of two debates, with the revised terms of the gag order allowing Trump to speak freely about witnesses and jurors in the case.

Merchan wrote Tuesday: “Circumstances have now changed. The trial portion of these proceedings ended when the verdict was rendered, and the jury discharged.” Trump is allowed to speak about witnesses, the jury and Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, but is still restricted from speaking about lawyers and staff for the District Attorney’s office and the court, as well as any family members until he is sentenced on July 11. Merchan wrote: “Until sentence is imposed, all individuals covered by Paragraph (b) must continue to perform their lawful duties free from threats, intimidation, harassment and harm.” Although he struck the portion of the gag order pertaining to jurors, Merchan wrote that it would be his “strong preference” to extend those protections because there remains “ample evidence to justify continued concern for the jurors.” An earlier prohibition on releasing personal information about jurors will remain in effect.

Trump’s campaign spokesman blasted the judge for failing to lift the entire gag order and promised Trump’s legal team “will immediately challenge” the order. Trump campaign spokesman Steven Cheung said in a statement: “this is another unlawful decision by a highly conflicted judge, which is blatantly un-American as it gags President Trump, the leading candidate in the 2024 presidential election during the upcoming presidential debate on Thursday.”

Merchan first imposed the gag order in March; before and during the trial, Merchan fined Trump $1,000 for each of 10 violations and warned the former president he could face jail time if the violations continued. On May 30, Trump was convicted of falsifying business records in connection to a hush money payment Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen made to adult film actress Stormy Daniels ahead of the 2016 election. Trump, who denied an affair, pleaded not guilty to the 34 counts and has vowed to appeal the verdict.

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