Trump's lawyers seek to lift gag order ahead of first presidential debate

Trump's attorneys argue restrictions on the former president's First Amendment rights are no longer justified post-trial.

Trump's lawyers seek to lift gag order ahead of first presidential debate
AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson
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Attorneys representing former President Donald Trump have approached a New York judge, requesting the removal of a gag order that has prevented Trump from speaking freely and publicly about witnesses, prosecutors, and others involved in his recent trial. In a letter addressed to Judge Juan Merchan on Tuesday, Trump's lawyers, Todd Blanche and Emil Bove, argued that since the trial has concluded, the restrictions on the former president's First Amendment rights are no longer justified.

The attorneys highlighted the need for Trump to have the flexibility to respond to public statements made by his campaign opponent, President Joe Biden, as well as trial witnesses such as attorney Michael Cohen and adult film actress Stormy Daniels. With the first presidential debate scheduled for June 27, Trump's legal team asserts he must be able to address the case, the verdict and its consequences without being hindered by the gag order, per Politico.

In their letter, Trump's attorneys wrote, "The defense does not concede that there was ever a valid basis for the gag order and reserves the right to challenge the irreparable First Amendment harms caused by the order," according to CBS News.

Blanche, one of Trump's attorneys, previously stated he understood the gag order to expire at the end of the trial, which concluded last week with a Manhattan jury finding Trump guilty on 34 felony counts related to hush money payments made to Daniels in 2016. However, as Trump has continued to speak in public as if the gag order is still in effect, Blanche said he would seek clarification from Judge Merchan.

"It's a little bit of the theater of the absurd at this point, right? Michael Cohen is no longer a witness in this trial," Blanche remarked. "The trial is over. The same thing with all the other witnesses. So, we'll see. I don't mean that in any way as being disrespectful of the judge and the process. I just want to be careful and understand when it no longer applies."

Judge Merchan initially imposed the gag order on Trump on March 26. Since then, he has charged the former president with violating the order 10 times and has fined him $10,000. Merchan also warned Trump that he could face jail time if he continued to make statements deemed to be in violation of the order.

Trump is scheduled to be sentenced in the case on July 11, just four days before the Republican National Convention.

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