Trump asks New York’s highest court to step in over hush-money trial gag order

Donald Trump is asking New York’s highest court to intervene in the gag order imposed on him in his hush-money trial.

On Wednesday, Mr Trump’s lawyers filed a notice of appeal to the New York Court of Appeals - the state’s top court, just a day after a lower appellate court rejected the former president’s attempt to modify the gag order.

The former president has been fighting the gag order that Justice Juan Merchan placed on him in March to prevent Mr Trump from damaging the integrity of the trial and witnesses.

Under it, Mr Trump cannot make or direct others “to make public statements” about trial witnesses and potential witnesses, jurors and prospective jurors, attorneys, court staff and their families.

Mr Trump and his lawyers argue the gag order violates his First Amendment rights. But so far, the court and an intermediate appeals court have rejected that argument. Judge Merchan has alrady found 10 violations of the gag order against Mr Trump, but has only fined him and not ordered him to jail.

Now, the Trump team is taking the issue to the state’s highest court.

“President Trump has filed a notice to appeal the unconstitutional and un-American gag order imposed by conflicted Judge Juan Merchan in the lawless Manhattan DA case,” Steven Cheung, Mr Trump’s presidential campaign spokesperson, told The Associated Press.

Former President Donald Trump leaves Manhattan Supreme Court on the 15th day of his hush money trial filed by DA Bragg on May 10, 2024. (via REUTERS)
Former President Donald Trump leaves Manhattan Supreme Court on the 15th day of his hush money trial filed by DA Bragg on May 10, 2024. (via REUTERS)

He added, “The threat to throw the 45th President of the United States and the leading candidate in the 2024 presidential election in jail for exercising his First Amendment rights is a Third World authoritarian tactic typical of Crooked Joe Biden and his comrades.”

However, a five-judge panel in the intermediate appeals court said on Tuesday that Justice Merchan, “properly determined that petitioner’s public statements posed a significant threat to the integrity of the testimony of witnesses and potential witnesses.”

In his civil fraud trial, Mr Trump faced a gag order after his attacks on court staff led to credible threats and harassment.

Justice Merchan placed the gag order on Mr Trump to prevent his attacks from interfering with the integrity of the trial. But that hasn’t stopped the former president.

Judge Merchan warned Mr Trump that if the $1,000 penalty does not deter him from continuing, he will put him in jail.

Mr Trump is charged with 34 counts of falsifying business records in connection with alleged reimbursement to Michael Cohen for paying off porn star Stormy Daniels in a “catch-and-kill” scheme that buried her story of an alleged affair with the former president ahead of the 2016 election.

The former president has pleaded not guilty and has denied the affair.