Trump ordered to end attacks on judge’s family in hush money case

Donald Trump must stop verbal attacks on family members of a New York judge and others in his upcoming trial on charges stemming from a hush money payment to a porn star, the court has ruled.

The ruling comes after the former US president disparaged the judge’s daughter.

“All citizens, called upon to participate in these proceedings, whether as a juror, a witness, or in some other capacity, must now concern themselves not only with their own personal safety, but with the safety and the potential for personal attacks upon their loved ones. That reality cannot be overstated,” Juan Merchan said in the expanded gag order.

New York prosecutors have argued that Trump was trying to scare potential witnesses and urged Merchan to make clear that his existing gag order – which bars Trump from publicly commenting about witnesses and court staff – also applies to family members.

They were responding to a 28 March social media post by Trump, who called Merchan’s daughter a “Rabid Trump Hater” in a social media post and called for the judge to be removed from the case.

“Family members of trial participants must be strictly off-limits,” prosecutor Matthew Colangelo wrote.

“Defendant’s insistence to the contrary bespeaks a dangerous sense of entitlement to instigate fear and even physical harm to the loved ones of those he sees in the courtroom.”

Merchan’s daughter runs a digital marketing agency called Authentic Campaigns, which works with Democratic candidates and non-profits.

Trump’s lawyers have argued that her work poses a conflict of interest and have unsuccessfully sought to oust Merchan from the case.

Susan Necheles, a lawyer for Trump in the hush money case, declined to comment on Merchan’s expanded gag order.

Trump’s defense lawyers have said Trump’s posts did not violate the gag order and were not meant to interfere with the proceedings or cause any harm.

“President Trump must be permitted to speak on these issues in a manner that is consistent with his position as the leading presidential candidate,” his lawyer Todd Blanche wrote.

Trump is set to go on trial starting 15 April in New York state court in Manhattan on criminal charges of covering up a US$130,000 payment before the 2016 election to porn star Stormy Daniels to buy her silence about an alleged sexual encounter.

Trump has pleaded not guilty to 34 counts of falsifying business records and denies an encounter with Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford.

Trump could face fines or jail time if he violates Merchan’s gag order, which does not bar him from criticizing the judge or Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, whose office brought the charges last year.

The case is one of four criminal indictments Trump faces as he prepares to challenge Biden in the Nov. 5 election. He has pleaded not guilty in the other three cases, which stem from efforts to overturn his 2020 loss to Biden and his handling of sensitive government documents after leaving office in 2021.

Trump faces a similar gag order in his Washington, DC criminal case over his efforts to reverse the 2020 election results.

Trump posts $175m bond in New York fraud case

Meanwhile, Trump has posted a US$175m (£140m) bond in his New York civil fraud case, staving off asset seizures by the state.

Trump was originally ordered to pay the full US$464m judgement against him, but an appeals court said he could pay the smaller sum within 10 days.

He was found in February to have fraudulently inflated property values.

The Republican denies wrongdoing and says the case is a political witch hunt by the Democratic prosecutor.

If he loses his appeal, Trump will have to come up with the $464m. His lawyers had argued before the appellate court that securing a bond for that amount would be a “practical impossibility”.

Monday’s bond payment will – for now at least – spare Trump the humiliation of seeing his real estate assets, such as Trump Tower in Manhattan and his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, taken away from him.

In a statement, his lawyer Alina Habba said: “As promised, President Trump has posted bond. He looks forward to vindicating his rights on appeal and overturning this unjust verdict.”

The fraud case against Trump was filed by New York Attorney General Letitia James, a Democrat, in 2022.

Justice Arthur Engoron, also a Democrat, broadly sided with James’ argument that Trump should pay a steep price for fraudulently misrepresenting his assets in order to get more favourable loans and interest rates over the course of years.

Trump argued the case had no victims because the banks got repaid with interest and no financial institution sued him for the exaggerated estimates of his net worth.

Justice Engoron also barred Trump from running a New York business for three years.

He was also prohibited from getting loans from New York financial institutions over the same period.

The ruling placed Trump, who has said in depositions and on social media that he has $400m or $500m in cash on hand, under a serious financial crunch.

Forbes Magazine currently estimates his net worth at $5.7bn – it soared after the parent company of his social media platform Truth Social went public last week.

Around the same time he lost the fraud case, Trump had to secure a $91m bond after losing an unrelated defamation lawsuit brought by the writer E Jean Carroll.

To delay enforcement of the penalty while he appealed the civil fraud case, Trump initially sought a bond from 30 companies but was unable to secure one, his lawyers wrote in court filings.

In addition to reducing the amount he would need to post last week, the appeals court also suspended the ban on Trump’s ability to run a business and get loans while they consider his challenge to Justice Engoron’s ruling.

It could take months, or longer, for the case to be decided.

* Originally published by Reuters and the BBC

According to the news on Radio New Zealand

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