On gag order, Trump didn’t leave N.Y. judge with much of a choice

Donald Trump is no stranger to gag orders. In fact, the former president’s rhetoric about ongoing court proceedings has been deemed so potentially dangerous, so many times, that a variety of judges have found it necessary to impose limits on what the Republican can say.

The list of such instances grew longer just last week. As the presumptive GOP presidential nominee’s first criminal trial drew closer, Trump lashed out at a variety of people across the legal system, including likely witnesses in his hush-money-to-a-porn-star case. With this in mind, as my MSNBC colleague Jordan Rubin explained, Judge Juan Merchan imposed a gag order on the Republican a week ago today.

The criminal defendant responded soon after by going after the judge’s daughter — publicly and repeatedly. The result, not surprisingly, was a revised gag order. NBC News reported:

State Judge Juan Merchan said Trump is barred from attacking his family members and those of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, in addition to the witnesses, prosecutors, court staff members and their relatives whom he was directed to “refrain” from talking about in a previous gag order issued last week.

The Republican’s “pattern of attacking family members of presiding jurists and attorneys assigned to his cases serves no legitimate purpose. It merely injects fear in those assigned or called to participate in the proceedings, that not only they, but their family members as well, are ‘fair game’ for Defendant’s vitriol,” Merchan wrote. “It is no longer just a mere possibility or a reasonable likelihood that there exists a threat to the integrity of the judicial proceedings. The threat is very real.”

Trump’s actions, the jurist added, could have a chilling effect ahead of the trial.

“The average observer must now, after hearing Defendant’s recent attacks, draw the conclusion that if they become involved in these proceedings, even tangentially, they should worry not only for themselves, but for their loved ones as well. Such concerns will undoubtedly interfere with the fair administration of justice and constitutes a direct attack on the Rule of Law itself,” Merchan concluded.

For those keeping score, Trump faced a gag order from New York Judge Arthur Engoron last fall in his corporate fraud case, which was followed by another gag order from U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan in his election interference case. Now, it’s happened yet again.

For his part, the suspected felon used his social media platform last week to describe the original gag order from Merchan as “illegal, un-American, [and] unConstitutional,” adding that the order was “wrongfully attempting to deprive me of my First Amendment Right to speak out.”

I can imagine why some might wonder whether Trump had a point. After all, you and I are free under the First Amendment to say what we please about the criminal case. Shouldn’t the defendant be afforded the same opportunities?

Actually, no. I’m reminded of something Judge Chutkan recently explained to one of Trump’s lawyers: “Mr. Trump is a criminal defendant. He is facing four felony charges. He is under the supervision of the criminal justice system, and he must comply with the conditions of release. He does not have the right to say and do exactly as he pleases.”

Jury selection in the hush money case is scheduled to begin in a couple of weeks. Watch this space.