Donald Trump is still bound by gag order even after being found guilty

Donald Trump
Donald Trump attends a UFC fight in Newark, N.J., on Saturday. (Joe Camporeale/USA Today Sports)

Despite being found guilty by a New York jury of 34 felony counts falsifying business records on May 30, former President Donald Trump continues to be restricted by a gag order that prevents him from commenting on trial witnesses, jurors, courtroom staff and their family members.

Lawyers for the prosecution and the defense fired off dueling letters to Judge Juan Merchan this week on whether he should terminate the gag order.

“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 President Trump,” Trump lawyers Emile Bove and Todd Blanche wrote to Merchan on Monday.

Assistant district attorneys Matthew Colangelo, Christopher Conroy, Katherine Ellis, Susan Hoffinger, Becky Mangold and Joshua Steinglass countered in their own letter on Tuesday that the court continued to have “an obligation to protect the integrity of these proceedings and the fair administration of justice at least through the sentencing hearing and the resolution of any post-trial motions.”

In comments made at Trump Tower the day after the jury’s verdict, Trump told reporters, "I'm under a gag order, nasty gag order." Referencing his former lawyer Michael Cohen, one of the prosecution’s witnesses during the trial, Trump added, "I'm not allowed to use his name because of the gag order."

Yahoo News sought clarification Tuesday with the Manhattan criminal court on when Merchan might lift the gag order.

“The order is part of the court record that has been made publicly available and it speaks for itself.” Al Baker, a spokesperson for the Manhattan criminal court, said in an email.

Citing Trump’s history of verbal attacks, Merchan issued a gag order on March 26 that prevented Trump from discussing witnesses, jurors, prosecutors and courtroom staff.

“The uncontested record reflecting the Defendant’s prior extra-judicial statements establishes a sufficient risk to the administration of justice … and there exists no less restrictive means to prevent such risk,” Merchan he wrote.

After Trump proceeded to post a series of social media attacks on Merchan’s daughter, the judge expanded the order on April 1 to include family members.

The order allowed Trump to continue commenting on the judge and Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg.

While the trial was ongoing Merchan fined Trump $10,000 for 10 gag order violations, including attacks on the jury and prosecution witnesses Michael Cohen and Stormy Daniels.

Merchan also threatened Trump with jail time for future violations of the gag order.

“The court will not tolerate continued willful violations of its lawful orders,” Merchan wrote.''

While Trump refrained from attacking Cohen and other witnesses as the court proceedings progressed, several of his high profile Republican supporters who traveled to New York for trial seemed to do so for him.

The judge will sentence Trump on July 11. While many experts believe that it is unlikely that Trump, who is a first-time criminal offender, will see jail time for having been found guilty on Class E felonies, which are the least serious under New York law.

But Trump’s continued testing of the limits of Merchan’s gag order could play a role in what sentence the judge ultimately hands down.

“Remorse and the need to promote respect for the law are typically factors that a judge takes into consideration when imposing sentences. Trump’s repeated violations of the gag order certainly demonstrate the lack of remorse and respect for the law,” former U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade told Politico last month.