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Manhattan DA seeks gag order against Trump in hush money criminal case

Alvin Bragg and law enforcement officials outline long list of threats fuelled by Trump’s statements

Alex Woodward
Monday 26 February 2024 21:24 GMT
Donald Trump attends Stormy Daniels hush money payments hearing in New York

The Manhattan district attorney’s office is asking a criminal court judge to impose a limited gag order against Donald Trump, citing his “long history” of “inflammatory” remarks aimed at the parties involved in his mountain of litigation.

A 30-page filing on Monday cites Mr Trump’s threatening social media posts, including a photo he posted that depicts him wielding a baseball bat at the back of District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s head.

The filing also notes that his office has received at least two “terroristic mailings” that included envelopes with white powder.

The former president will stand trial in New York on 25 March on nearly three dozen charges of falsifying business records in connection with hush money payments made to an adult film star at the onset of his 2016 presidential campaign.

The trial will likely be his first criminal proceedings among the four cases against him, as well as the first criminal trial against any current or former president.

Mr Trump and his attorneys faced gag orders in his civil fraud trial, after he repeatedly targeted the court’s chief clerk, fuelling a wave of credible death threats against the judge overseeing the case and his staff. Federal prosecutors also sought a gag order in his federal election conspiracy case, noting Mr Trump’s attacks are “part of a pattern, stretching back years, in which people publicly targeted” by him are “subject to harassment, threats, and intimidation.”

In the filing lawyers with the district attorney’s office similarly warned against threats of intimidation and harassment, with an affidavit from a New York City Police Department official noting the “direct connection” between Mr Trump’s statements and threats.

Prosecutors are asking the court for a protective order that would prohibit the disclosure of juror names to anyone other than Mr Trump and his attorneys.

He would also be blocked from making statements about witnesses, members of the court and the district attorney’s staff and their families.

Mr Bragg will be fair game for Mr Trump’s attacks, according to the proposed order, just as New York Justice Arthur Engoron and special counsel Jack Smith made exceptions for them in their gag order requests.

The former president “has a long history of making public and inflammatory remarks about the participants in various judicial proceedings against him, including jurors, witnesses, lawyers and court staff,” according to prosecutors, noting that such statements “pose a significant and imminent threat to the orderly administration of this criminal proceeding.”

A “narrowly tailored” request to rein in Mr Trump’s remarks will ensure “the integrity of the upcoming trial while still affording [Mr Trump] ample opportunity to engage in speech, including speech about this case,” they wrote.

New York County District Attorney Alvin Bragg (REUTERS)

Over the course of the hush money case, there have been “credible threats of violence, harassment, and intimidation directed at the District Attorney, his staff, and the District Attorney’s Office,” with “hundreds of threats in the wake of, and connected to, [Mr Trump’s] public attacks,” according to prosecutors.

The NYPD had only logged “a single threat” against the district attorney and his office in the 15 months before Mr Trump “rallied his supporters in protest of this investigation and indictment,” the filing states.

But the agency’s threat assessment unit logged “an extraordinary surge in threat activity that began on the very day [Mr Trump] began targeting the District Attorney, members of the District Attorney’s staff, and this Office with his violent rhetoric and public attacks,” according to prosecutors.

The unit logged 89 threats against the district attorney, his family or employees of his office in 2023, the first of which occurred the same day that the former president called on his supporters to “protest” and “take our nation back,” the filing states.

Police reviewed 600 threatening phone calls and emails in March of last year alone, as the office prepared to indict the former president.

“Defendant has also acknowledged – and reports have confirmed – that his public attacks have incited his supporters to engage in their own misconduct, yet defendant has refused to moderate his comments to prevent such harms,” they wrote.

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