Trump is still under gag order for debate

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Donald Trump’s criminal prosecutions could become a topic in the presidential debate next week, but unprecedented court orders have restricted the former president in how he can address them.

Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, will take the debate stage on June 27, one month after he was convicted by a jury of falsifying business records in New York and as he is in the midst of three criminal cases in other jurisdictions.

While his Democratic opponent, President Joe Biden, leans into messaging that characterizes Trump as a convicted felon and spends $50 million on campaign ads promoting it in the days before the debate, Trump is prohibited from taking aim at some of the main characters in his New York case and witnesses in other cases.

Dan Epstein, a constitutional law professor at St. Thomas University, told the Washington Examiner that Trump will be in uncharted territory when he walks onto the debate stage while under gag orders and bond agreements. Normally, he said, gag orders are legitimate when properly tailored to balance First Amendment rights.

“What makes the issue in the Trump prosecutions challenging is that he’s a political candidate engaged in political speech. It’s untested waters jurisprudentially,” Epstein said.

A gag order issued by Judge Juan Merchan in the hush money case will prevent Trump from discussing at the debate, for example, his concerns about one of the lead prosecutors and the judge’s daughter, both of whom Trump has argued presented conflicts of interest in the case.

Matthew Colangelo, who had a leading role in helping Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg secure a conviction against Trump last month, worked in the Biden Department of Justice before Bragg, an elected Democrat, hired him to help with the hush money case in December 2022.

In March, Trump told reporters Colangelo was a “Biden DOJ guy.”

“Why is he in the Manhattan DA’s office trying the case? That in itself is a conflict. He’s in the Manhattan DA’s office trying the case. I mean, that’s called a conflict,” Trump said.

At the request of prosecutors, Merchan swiftly issued a gag order in March that shut down Trump’s ability to speak openly about Colangelo, citing concerns for the safety of Colangelo and others whom Trump has publicly criticized.

Merchan then expanded the order to include family members of prosecutors and court staff after Trump attacked the judge’s daughter in posts online. However, Trump had nonfrivolous concerns about Loren Merchan that he also raised in court motions.

The former president will not be able to discuss these motions at the debate.


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Chuck comes from a lineage of journalism. He has written for some of the webs most popular news sites. He enjoys spending time outdoors, bull riding, and collecting old vinyl records. Roll Tide!