Trump ramps up attacks on judge in hush money case after gag order

Less than 24 hours after getting hit with a partial gag order in the New York criminal case involving his alleged falsification of business records, former President Donald Trump repeatedly lashed out at one person who’s not covered by the ruling — the judge.

In a series of posts on his social media platform, Trump called Judge Juan Merchan “biased and conflicted” while also taking aim at the judge’s daughter for a second day in a row.

In a ruling Tuesday, Merchan noted the impending April 15 trial date and said Trump must “refrain” from “making or directing others to make public statements about known or reasonably foreseeable witnesses concerning their potential participation” in the case, as well as about individual prosecutors and court staff and their family members.

The order did not mention the judge and his family members — a loophole Trump exploited Wednesday.

“This Judge, by issuing a vicious ‘Gag Order,’ is wrongfully attempting to deprive me of my First Amendment Right to speak out against the Weaponization of Law Enforcement,” Trump wrote, saying the judge “is suffering from an acute case of Trump Derangement Syndrome” and should recuse himself from the case.

Donald Trump at New York Criminal Court
Donald Trump at New York Criminal Court on March 25, 2024.Justin Lane / Pool via AP

The attacks continue a pattern of Trump lashing out at judges and the judicial system on social media after getting an adverse ruling in court.

As he’d done previously, Trump also went after Merchan’s daughter, who’s worked at a progressive digital marketing agency that has worked for many Democratic candidates. 

“Maybe the Judge is such a hater because his daughter makes money by working to ‘Get Trump,'” one of his posts said. He also accused her of having posted a picture of him behind bars on social media —an allegation that appears to have originated from a Trump ally, far right activist and conspiracy theorist Laura Loomer.

Loomer made a similar allegation last year involving the wife of Judge Arthur Engoron, who presided over Trump’s civil fraud trial, accusing her of having shared anti-Trump memes on social media.

Trump then attacked the judge’s wife, who was not protected by the partial gag order Engoron had put in place in that case.

A spokesman for the state court system said then that the posts Loomer promoted were not from the judge’s wife.

“Justice Engoron’s wife has sent no social media posts regarding the former president. They are not hers,” said the spokesman, Al Baker.

Trump never acknowledged or apologized for the apparent false accusation.

NBC News has reached out to the court system for comment on the new Loomer/Trump accusation.

The handle used in the X profile highlighted by Loomer had been previously associated with Merchan’s daughter in 2022, but the profile Loomer shared said the person joined X in April of 2023, the same month far right news outlets wrote critical stories about the daughter.

An NBC News analysis earlier this year of Trump’s posts on his social media platform Truth Social found his unprecedented attacks on the judicial system were frequently tied to developments in his court cases, and at times outnumbered his posts about his re-election bid.

Trump’s criticism often comes at a cost for his targets. Merchan, Engoron and the judge presiding over his federal election interference case in Washington, D.C., Tanya Chutkan, have all recieved threats following Trump’s complaints.

Merchan cited his experience when he handed down his ruling Tuesday blocking Trump from making comments about individual prosecutors (with the exception of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg), court staff, their family members, and jurors and potential jurors. While he didn’t initially issue an order at the start of the case, the judge said he was acting now “given the nature and impact of the statements made against this Court and a family member” as well as district attorneys and witnesses, adding that “given that the eve of trial is upon us, it is without question that the imminency of the risk of harm is now paramount.”

Trump’s attorneys had argued in court filings that because their client is the presumptive Republican nominee for president he “must have unfettered access to the voting public to respond to attacks from political opponents.”

Merchan said in his ruling that Trump’s public commentary in this case and others had gone “far beyond defending himself against attacks.”

“Indeed, his statements were threatening, inflammatory” and “denigrating,” and the “consequences of those statements included not only fear on the part of the individual targeted, but also the assignment of increased security resources to investigate threats and protect the individuals and family members thereof,” the judge wrote.

The DA’s case alleges Trump falsified business records to cover up payments he was making to his then-lawyer Michael Cohen as repayment for a $130,000 hush money payment Cohen had doled out to adult film star Stormy Daniels in the closing days of the 2016 campaign. Daniels claimed she had a sexual encounter with Trump in 2006, which Trump denies.

Trump has pleaded not guilty in the case and maintains the charges are part of a politically orchestrated witch hunt against him.

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