DA Bragg's office urges Judge Merchan to 'clarify and confirm' gag order on Trump applies to judge's daughter

 March 30, 2024

Former President Donald Trump made multiple critical comments about the Democratic activist daughter of New York Judge Juan Merchan, who is presiding over his criminal "hush money" case, despite the recent imposition of a "gag order" that seemingly places off-limits the family members of the judge and others involved in the case.

Trump's commentary led Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg to send a pre-motion letter to Judge Merchan that requested the court "clarify and confirm" that the order applied to the judge's daughter, and if so to impose "sanctions" on the former president, according to RawStory.

The defense team for Trump has already responded to that letter from Bragg with one of their own which argued that any clarification of the order by Merchan would equate to an "expansion" of the order and called for a "full adversarial briefing" on the matter so they could explain why such an action would be unconstitutional.

Bragg's office urges judge to "clarify and confirm" gag order applies to his daughter

The letter from DA Bragg's office to Judge Merchan, dated March 28, was initially filed with the court in secret but was obtained and posted publicly the next day by Just Security reporter Adam Klasfeld, who remarked that Bragg's letter "fires a shot across the bow" of former President Trump by calling for the judge to issue a warning and threaten sanctions.

"We respectfully submit this pre-motion letter requesting that the Court (1) clarify or confirm that its March 26, 2024 Order Restricting Extrajudicial Statements protects family members of the Court, the District Attorney, and all other individuals mentioned in the Order; and (2) direct that defendant immediately desist from attacks on family members," the letter, written by Assistant District Attorney Joshua Steinglass, stated.

It was noted that despite the gag order prohibiting Trump from making public comments about "the family members of any counsel or [court] staff member," the former president nonetheless publicly posted on Truth Social at least two posts that directly criticized the partisan activity of Merchan's adult daughter.

"The People believe that the March 26 Order is properly read to protect family members of the Court," the letter continued. "But to avoid any doubt ... this Court should now clarify or confirm that the Order protects family members of the Court, the District Attorney, and all other individuals mentioned in the Order."

Bragg's office calls for warning and "sanctions" against Trump

The letter from DA Bragg's office went on to note that former President Trump had been similarly barred from commenting on the family members of court staff and prosecutors by gag orders in other cases that the D.C. Circuit Court upheld, and further alleged that potential witnesses and prospective jurors had already expressed "grave concerns" that they or their family members might be subject to "attacks" by Trump.

"As a result, this Court should make abundantly clear that the March 26 Order protects family members of the Court, the District Attorney, and all other individuals mentioned in the Order," the letter urged.

It added, "Furthermore, the Court should warn defendant that his recent conduct is contumacious and direct him to immediately desist. If defendant continues to disregard such orders, he should face sanctions under Judiciary Law g 750(A)(3) and 751."

Trump responds to Bragg's call for clarification of gag order

RawStory reported separately that former President Trump's attorneys responded to that letter from DA Bragg's office with a pre-motion letter of their own to Judge Merchan that was subsequently obtained and posted online by Lawfare managing editor Tyler McBrien.

That letter argued that Merchan's gag order on Trump didn't apply to the judge or his partisan activist daughter, that his social media posts weren't "contumacious" -- meaning "willfully disobedient to authority" -- and that any warnings in that regard would be inappropriate.

"Contrary to the People's suggestion, the Court cannot 'direct' President Trump to do something that the gag order does not require," Trump's attorneys wrote. "To 'clarify and confirm' the meaning of the gag order in the way the people suggest would be to expand it. No expansion is appropriate on the basis of a one-page letter citing only two cases, and where President Trump's response has been restricted to a single page required to be submitted the following day while President Trump and defense counsel are preparing for trial."

The letter concluded with a demand for a "full adversarial briefing" to address "the constitutional problems attendant with any additional improper restrictions on protected campaign speech -- which would implicate First Amendment rights that belong to not only President Trump but also the public -- where the family member referenced in the pre-motion letter is actively supporting adversarial campaign speech by President Trump's political opponents."

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