Thu. Jul 25th, 2024

The judge who presided over Donald Trump’s hush money trial has ended parts of a gag order on the former president, letting him speak about witnesses and jurors but shielding others involved in the case until his sentencing next month.

The decision from the judge, Juan Merchan, comes less than a month after jurors found Trump guilty on all 34 counts of falsifying business records to cover up a hush money scheme involving an adult-film actress before the 2016 presidential election.

In a five-page ruling Tuesday, Merchan acknowledged that “circumstances have now changed,” with the trial over and jury dismissed. He said he reluctantly lifted the part of the gag order applying to jurors and kept in place a March order that requires their identities to remain private.

The gag order still applies to lawyers and prosecutors other than Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg (D); court staff and Bragg’s staff; and family of any of those people.

“Until sentence is imposed,” Merchan wrote, those people “must continue to perform their lawful duties free from threats, intimidation, harassment, and harm.”

A Trump campaign spokesperson criticized Merchan’s ruling for not entirely ending the gag order.

“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,” the spokesperson, Steven Cheung, said in a statement. “President Trump and his legal team will immediately challenge today’s unconstitutional order.”

Trump is set to debate President Biden on Thursday on CNN, in their first debate of the 2024 election.

Trump’s sentencing is set for July 11, four days before the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee. Each count carries a prison sentence of up to four years, though Trump is likely to serve less time or none at all.

Trump has long fought the gag order, publicly criticizing it as an infringement on his First Amendment rights and accruing thousands of dollars in fines for violating it. Trump has been especially critical over the years of two people who were high-profile witnesses in the trial: the adult-film actress at the center of the hush money scheme, Stormy Daniels, and Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen.

Days after the May 30 verdict, Trump’s lawyers sought to fully lift the gag order, which prosecutors opposed. Last week, the New York Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, declined to consider Trump’s appeal of the gag order.

In Tuesday’s decision, Merchan voiced lingering worries about the jurors, saying there is “ample evidence to justify continued concern” for them. The March order he previously issued prohibits public disclosure of the jurors’ identities and only allowed the parties and their lawyers to have access to them.

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