NY prosecutors urge judge to keep gag order blocking Trump from criticizing jurors who convicted him

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NEW YORK (AP) — Prosecutors on Friday urged the judge overseeing Donald Trump’s criminal hush money case to uphold provisions of a gag order that bar him from criticizing jurors and court staff, while agreeing to lift a restriction on his public statements about trial witnesses.

In court papers filed Friday, prosecutors with the Manhattan district attorney’s office argued that portions of the gag order remained necessary given the Republican former president’s “singular history of inflammatory and threatening public statements,” as well as efforts by his supporters to “identify jurors and threaten violence against him.”

“Since the verdict in this case, defendant has not exempted the jurors from his alarming rhetoric that he would have ‘every right’ to seek retribution as president against the participants in this trial as a consequence of his conviction because ’sometimes revenge can be justified,” the filing states.

The gag order, issued in March, prohibited Trump from making or directing others to make public statements about witnesses, jurors and others connected to the case. It does not restrict comments about the judge, Juan M. Merchan, or Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, whose office prosecuted the case.

Attorneys for Trump have called on the judge to lift the order following the culmination of his trial last month, which ended in his conviction on 34 felony counts for falsifying records to cover up a potential sex scandal. Trump, who has denied any wrongdoing, is set to be sentenced on July 11.

Defense attorneys argue Trump should be free to fully address the case as he campaigns for the White House, pointing to comments made by President Joe Biden and the continued public criticism of him by his ex-lawyer Michael Cohen and the porn actor Stormy Daniels, both key prosecution witnesses.

“Now that the trial is concluded, the concerns articulated by the government and the Court do not justify continued restrictions on the First Amendment rights” of Trump, they wrote earlier this month.

In their letter, prosecutors agreed that the provision barring statements about trial witnesses no longer needed to be enforced but said the restrictions on statements about court staff and members of the prosecution, excluding Bragg, should remain in place.

They cited an “intensified” threat situation in recent months, with more than 60 “actionable threats” directed against Bragg, his family and court staff since April. The threats include social media posts disclosing the address of an employee of the district attorney’s office and a photo showing sniper sights aimed on people involved in the case, according to police.

Merchan is expected to issue a ruling soon, possibly before Trump’s June 27 debate with President Joe Biden.

Earlier this week, New York’s top court declined to hear Trump’s appeal on the gag order, finding it does not raise “substantial” constitutional issues that would warrant an immediate intervention.

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