Judge partially lifts Trump hush money gag order
Credits: CHRIS KLEPONIS / AFP

Judge partially lifts Trump hush money gag order

A New York judge partially lifted a gag order on former President Donald Trump following his conviction on criminal charges related to the 2016 election. The revised order now allows Trump to speak publicly about witnesses in the case and removes a prohibition on his commenting about the jury, but keeps in place restrictions on his statements about individual prosecutors and others involved.

The case stems from Trump's efforts to influence the 2016 election by buying the silence of adult film actress Stormy Daniels, who had threatened to go public with her story of a sexual encounter with Trump. A Manhattan jury found Trump guilty on May 30 of covering up the $130,000 hush money payment made by his former lawyer, Michael Cohen.

Trump's lawyers had argued the gag order was stifling his campaign speech and might limit his ability to respond to attacks from Democratic President Joe Biden during their upcoming debate. Prosecutors said limits on Trump's speech about trial witnesses were no longer needed, but they urged the judge to keep restrictions on his comments about jurors, court staff and individual prosecutors, citing risks to their safety.

The judge, Juan Merchan, imposed the gag order before the trial, citing Trump's history of threatening statements and the risk of derailing the proceedings. He fined Trump $10,000 for violations of the order during the trial and warned him he could be jailed for further infractions.

In arguing some restrictions were still needed, prosecutors said Trump's supporters had attempted to identify members of the anonymous jury and threatened violence against them. Trump's lawyers countered that holding him accountable for "harassing communications" by "independent third parties" violated his right to free speech, and said the restrictions were being used as a "political sword" by his opponents.

The revised order does not prevent Trump from criticizing the case or from speaking about the judge and the Manhattan district attorney's office.

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