Former President Donald Trump’s Gag Order

Elections & Politics Policy Brief #126 | By: Arvind Salem | April 02, 2024
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On April 15th, the first criminal trial of a former president will begin. Donald Trump will defend himself from allegations that he falsified business records to cover up hush money payments to Stormy Daniels. For more information and analysis beyond these essential details, readers are welcome to read my original coverage of this trial here.

However, just because the trial hasn’t begun doesn’t mean that the sparring on this case hasn’t commenced, and the result of one of those battles was recently made clear when a judge issued a gag order on former President Donald Trump, barring him from publicly attacking or directing anyone to attack any witnesses, jurors or prosecutors serving on the case. This includes Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, a key witness in this case and someone that former President Donald Trump is prone to disparaging. Notably, the order does not prevent Trump from attacking District Attorney Alvin Bragg or Judge Juan Merchan, who are both public figures.

Rationalizing this order, the judge pointed to Trump’s history of making “threatening, inflammatory, denigrating” statements against people involved in his cases. Punishments for violating the order include being held in contempt of court, fined or even jailed.

Former President Donald Trump has publicly blasted the judge for this ruling, even attacking Judge Merchan’s daughter. Trump posited on Truth Social that: “Maybe the Judge is such a hater because his daughter makes money by working to ‘Get Trump’ and when he rules against me over and over again, he is making her company, and her, richer and richer. . .How can this be allowed?” Trump’s attack refers to the fact that the Judge Merchan’s daughter is a Democratic political consultant, who of course has a vested interest in seeing him convicted and losing the election.

Policy Analysis:

Supporters of Trump have been quick to point out the obvious implications of limiting freedom of speech for someone who could very well be the President of the United States in a few months. Yet this very line of argument illustrates the complications of prosecuting a president, but also how former President Donald Trump’s team may be trying to have it both ways. In the courtroom, they rightfully want the President to be treated like anyone else and not adversely affected by the political baggage that he carries. But if former President Trump is to be divorced from his political history inside the courtroom then why is he using political motivations as a scapegoat for why this gag order was issued to him? He actively attempts to shoehorn political implications into the case whenever it benefits him (such as arguing that he needs full free speech rights in order to fully campaign).

In fact, the judge was more lenient with him due to this unique situation as he did not want to “trample his ability to defend himself publicly.” If former President Donald Trump gets the benefit of the extra leeway being a candidate provides, he also has to realize that incendiary language that comes from him can easily translate into action, or at least massive influence whenever he expresses any opinion.

Engagement Resources:

  • ActBlue: ActBlue allows people to donate to a host of Democratic organizations, candidates, and causes. Readers are likely to find organizations that are supporting the Trump indictment on this site and may wish to donate money to further that cause.
  • Winred: Winred allows people to donate money to Republican candidates to support their campaign. Readers interested in supporting former President Donald Trump or other members of the Republican party may find that this is a useful way to convey their support and help the Republican cause.

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