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Is Trump still under a gag order after his conviction? He thinks so, but the answer isn’t clear

NEW YORK (AP) — Donald Trump said he remains muzzled by a gag order after his conviction in his hush money criminal trial. His lawyer said he thinks the gag order was supposed to expire with the verdict and he may seek clarity from the court.

“I’m under a gag order, nasty gag order,” the former president said Friday while speaking to reporters at Trump Tower. Referring to star prosecution witness Michael Cohen, Trump said: “I’m not allowed to use his name because of the gag order.”

But, despite saying he believes he’s still subject to the order banning comments about witnesses and others connected to his case, Trump again lashed out at his former lawyer-turned-courtroom foe.

Without naming Cohen, Trump called him “a sleazebag,” using the same language that the Manhattan district attorney’s office flagged before the trial as a possible violation.

“Everybody knows that. Took me a while to find out,” Trump added during a 33-minute speech in which he fumed against the guilty verdict and repeated unfounded claims that his rival, President Joe Biden, had influenced the prosecution.

Trump was convicted Thursday of 34 counts of falsifying business records arising from what prosecutors said was an attempt to cover up a hush money payment to porn actor Stormy Daniels just before the 2016 election. She claims she had a sexual encounter with Trump a decade earlier, which he denies. He is scheduled to be sentenced July 11.

Trump lawyer Todd Blanche said Friday that it was his understanding that the gag order would be lifted when the trial ended with a verdict, because that’s how prosecutors framed their request when they sought the restrictions back in February.

But, Blanche said, he thinks Trump is still trying to be careful because it isn’t clear to him whether that’s actually happened. During the trial, Judge Juan M. Merchan held Trump in contempt of court, fined him $10,000 for violating the gag order and threatened to put him in jail if he did it again.

“I don’t want President Trump to violate the gag order,” Blanche said. “I don’t think it applies anymore. I feel like the trial is over and it shouldn’t.”

“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 added. “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.”

In a statement, a spokesperson for the state court system said: “The order is part of the court record that has been made publicly available and it speaks for itself.” The statement didn’t say what part of the order it meant, though in issuing the order, Merchan noted that prosecutors had sought the restrictions “for the duration of the trial.”

A message seeking comment was left for the Manhattan DA’s office.

Merchan imposed the gag order on March 26, a few weeks before the start of the trial, after prosecutors raised concerns about the presumptive Republican presidential nominee’s propensity to attack people involved in his cases. It barred him from publicly commenting about witnesses, jurors and others connected to his hush money case.

Merchan later expanded it to prohibit comments about his own family after Trump made social media posts attacking the judge’s daughter, a Democratic political consultant, and raised false claims about her.

Trump’s use of the term “sleazebag” to describe Cohen just before the trial rankled prosecutors, but was not considered a gag order violation by the judge. Merchan declined to sanction Trump for an April 10 social media post, which referred to Cohen and Daniels, another key prosecution witness, by that insult.

The judge said at the time that Trump’s contention that he was responding to previous posts by Cohen that were critical of him “is sufficient to give” him pause as to whether prosecutors met their burden in demonstrating that the post was out of bounds.

A state appeals court this month rejected Trump’s request to lift some or all of the gag order during the trial, finding that Merchan properly determined Trump’s public statements “posed a significant threat to the integrity of the testimony of witnesses and potential witnesses.”

The state’s mid-level appeals court ruled that “Merchan properly weighed” Trump’s free speech rights against the “historical commitment to ensuring the fair administration of justice in criminal cases, and the right of persons related or tangentially related to the criminal proceedings from being free from threats, intimidation, harassment, and harm.”

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Associated Press reporter Jill Colvin contributed to this report.

Michael R. Sisak, The Associated Press



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