Donald Trump has made repeated online posts criticizing the adult daughter of the judge in his New York hush money case.

Donald Trump has made repeated online posts criticizing the adult daughter of the judge in his New York hush money case.

NEW YORK — The prosecutor in Donald Trump’s upcoming hush money trial has asked the judge to clarify whether a gag order issued for the former president this week bars him from publicly attacking the judge’s adult daughter — and to expand the order if it doesn’t.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg made the request after social media posts by Trump attacking the daughter of New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan for her professional affiliations with Democratic candidates and politicians.

As Trump’s April 15 trial date nears, he and his advocates insist Merchan is influenced by his daughter’s job and her ties to Democrats.

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Bragg’s office wrote in a letter filed Thursday and unsealed Friday that in light of the attacks, the judge “should make abundantly clear that the [gag order] protects family members of the Court, the District Attorney, and all other individuals mentioned in the Order.”

It also said that Merchan should “warn [Trump] that his recent conduct is contumacious and direct him to immediately desist” and that ignoring the warning should warrant sanctions.

On Tuesday, Merchan barred Trump, the presumptive 2024 Republican presidential nominee, from discussing trial witnesses, prosecutors and others involved in the case, saying that his record of “prior extrajudicial statements establishes a sufficient risk to the administration of justice.”

Trump attorneys have repeatedly argued that any limitation on his speech is a clear violation of his First Amendment rights and his rights as a presidential candidate.

In a letter Friday responding to Bragg’s request, defense lawyers Susan Necheles and Todd Blanche said Merchan’s gag order does not apply to comments about the judge’s family members and Trump’s recent posts had not violated the order.

Merchan can’t order Trump “to do something that the gag order does not require,” the lawyers wrote, adding that they would be entitled to a hearing if the judge is inclined to broaden the order.

Trump has been partially gagged in other cases, including his federal election-interference indictment in Washington D.C. and a civil fraud case overseen by another New York judge, Arthur Engoron, whose law clerk and staff received a flood of threats and harassing messages after Trump posted a photo and false information about the clerk online.

Trump’s trial in front of Merchan is expected to span roughly two months and will be the first criminal trial of a former U.S. president. He is charged with falsifying business records to conceal a hush money payment during the 2016 presidential race to adult film actress Stormy Daniels, who claimed to have had a sexual liaison with Trump years earlier.

The former president has three other pending indictments — the D.C. election-obstruction case, a state-level election obstruction case in Georgia and a federal case in Florida that accuses him of improperly retaining classified documents and obstructing government efforts to retrieve them.

Trump has pleaded not guilty to all 88 counts he faces.

Merchan’s daughter was previously cited by Trump’s lawyers as an issue in the hush money case, when they argued that Merchan should recuse himself because of her ties to Democratic campaigns and because the judge appeared to have donated $15 to President Biden in 2020 and made two $10 contributions to Democratic-aligned organizations.

In a statement Friday, Richard Lewis, who heads the New York State Bar Association, decried Trump’s recent rhetoric, saying “we must condemn in no uncertain terms the unfounded attack on Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan and his family.”

“All judges must be free to decide cases and issue rulings without fear for their safety or that of their family,” Lewis added. “While they cannot speak out to protect themselves, we can, and we will. Our system of justice depends on it.”

A sitting federal judge on Thursday harshly criticized Donald Trump’s attacks on the judge overseeing the former president’s criminal case tied to alleged hush money payments, telling CNN that such statements threaten the viability of the American legal system.

US District Judge Reggie Walton spoke with CNN’s Kaitlan Collins on “The Source” in the wake of Trump’s attacks on Judge Juan Merchan, which helped prompt the New York judge to issue a gag order on the former president earlier this week. It is unusual for federal judges to speak publicly, especially about specific political or legal situations.

“It’s very disconcerting to have someone making comments about a judge, and it’s particularly problematic when those comments are in the form of a threat, especially if they’re directed at one’s family,” said Walton, who has also faced threats, as has his daughter. “We do these jobs because we’re committed to the rule of law and we believe in the rule of law, and the rule of law can only function effectively when we have judges who are prepared to carry out their duties without the threat of potential physical harm.”

“I think it’s important in order to preserve our democracy that we maintain the rule of law,” Walton said in the interview. “And the rule of law can only be maintained if we have independent judicial officers who are able to do their job and ensure that the laws are, in fact, enforced and that the laws are applied equally to everybody who appears in our courthouse.”

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“I think it’s important that, as judges, we speak out and say things in reference to things that conceivably are going to impact on the process, because if we don’t have a viable court system that’s able to function efficiently, then we have tyranny. And I don’t think that would be good for the future of our country, and the future of democracy in our country,” he continued.

In addition to the New York case and other legal matters, Trump is criminally charged in a federal election interference case, where he faces a likely trial in the courtroom of Judge Tanya Chutkan, one of Walton’s colleagues in the DC District Court. A gag order on Trump in his federal 2020 election case that limits his ability to speak about court staff in a way that could influence his case has been upheld by the appeals courts. Yet Trump continues to rail about judges and others involved in his court cases elsewhere when gag orders don’t limit him. The use of court-imposed gag orders against him have become more widespread in recent months as the former president heads toward criminal trials and because of the history of documented threats his public attacks have inspired.

In New York, Trump has repeatedly attacked District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s case and those involved with it ahead of what would be the first criminal trial of a former president. Trump criticized Merchan, his daughter and one of Bragg’s prosecutors in the hours before Merchan issued his gag order. In the order – which does not prevent Trump from talking about Bragg, who is a public figure, or Merchan himself – Merchan cited “a sufficient risk to the administration of justice … and there exists no less restrictive means to prevent such risk.”

Walton said that Merchan “did the right thing” by not including himself in the gag order that he imposed on Trump. The gag order limits Trump from making statements about potential witnesses, attorneys, court staff or the family members of prosecutors or lawyers intended to interfere with the case.

Walton, who has been a senior judge of the federal trial level court in Washington, DC, since 2001, told CNN he is speaking out against threats on judges because he is concerned.

Walton said even though threats may be made against you and your family, “you still have an obligation to ensure that everybody who comes into your courtroom is treated fairly regardless of who they are, or what they’ve done.”

“But nonetheless, it is very troubling because I think it is an attack on the rule of law when judges are threatened and particularly when their family is threatened and it’s something that’s wrong and should not happen,” Walton said.

Prosecutors asked the judge on Thursday to “clarify or confirm” that the gag order covered family members of the judge, district attorney and those included in the order and “direct that defendant immediately desist from attacks on family members,” citing Trump’s social media posts.

“The People believe that the March 26 Order is properly read to protect family members of the Court… such protection is amply warranted,” prosecutors wrote. They also said that multiple potential witnesses “have already expressed grave concerns” about their safety as well as the safety of family members.

Trump’s attorneys responded on Friday, writing, “To ‘clarify or confirm’ the meaning of the gag order in the way the People suggest would be to expand it.”

Trump’s attorneys said they want to file legal briefs to challenge any expansion. The letters were made public on Friday.

Trump’s historic criminal trial will begin with jury selection on April 15, after a dispute over the late production of documents caused Merchan to initially push back the start date. Trump is charged with 34 counts of falsifying business records stemming from reimbursements to his then-attorney Michael Cohen for hush money payments he made before the 2016 election to adult film star Stormy Daniels to keep her from going public about an alleged affair with Trump. The former president has pleaded not guilty and denied the affair.