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Trump Argues Death Threats To Judge Don’t Warrant Gag Order

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Former President Donald Trump has filed a motion contending that death threats shouldn't lead to gag order.
Former President Donald Trump has filed a motion contending that death threats shouldn't lead to gag order. (Photo: Imgur)

In his plea to a New York appeals court, Donald Trump has requested the continuation of the pause on the gag order imposed on him during his civil fraud trial. Trump argues that the threats directed at the judge and his law clerk, though concerning, should not warrant a restriction on his constitutional right to defend himself.

The New York attorney general’s office and the court had sought the reinstatement of the gag order, citing “serious and credible” threats received by Judge Arthur Engoron’s chambers since the trial commenced in October.

Trump’s legal team countered in a filing on Monday, asserting that the former president has never personally threatened the judge or the principal law clerk. They contend that Trump’s First Amendment right to criticize the perceived bias of the judge and clerk is crucial for maintaining public confidence in the trial.

While acknowledging the need for appropriate security measures due to “the disturbing behavior of anonymous third-party actors,” Trump’s attorneys argued against a complete abrogation of their client’s First Amendment rights. They emphasized that the trial, marked by its high stakes and compromised by partisan bias, should not result in the wholesale restriction of Trump’s personal attacks on the judge and his staff.

This filing comes in the wake of the public disclosure of hundreds of harassing messages against Judge Engoron and the law clerk. The clerk reportedly receives a high volume of calls and messages daily on personal and social media platforms, prompting concerns about her safety.

Earlier this month, a New York appeals court temporarily lifted the gag order on Trump and his attorneys, citing constitutional considerations. Trump and his legal team had asserted bias on the part of the law clerk based on her political donations, alleging that she was effectively “co-judging” the case. The appeals court judge indicated the intention to lift the gag order to allow a fuller panel of judges to address the constitutional issues involved.

In response to the recent surge in threatening messages, including antisemitic content, lawyers for the judge urged the appeals court to reinstate the gag order. Trump’s attorneys maintained that their client should not be held accountable for the actions or comments of his followers and emphasized that neither Trump nor his counsel had made any statements referencing the law clerk’s religion, appearance, or private activities.

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