The plot continues to thicken in Donald Trump’s ‘Hush Money’ case. Just in the past week, we’ve seen the judge issue a gag order, Trump attack the judge and judge’s daughter on X, a separate federal judge offer his opinion, and a Trump ally file an ethics complaint against that federal judge. Let’s get you caught up!

Trump’s Hush Money Trial Starts April 15

Donald Trump is currently facing 91 felony charges in four different states. 34 of those charges are related to his ‘Hush Money’ case in New York, where he’s being accused of falsifying business records in connection with a payoff to pornstar Stormy Daniels.

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While he has yet to stand trial for any of his indictments, that will change on April 15 when his ‘Hush Money’ trial begins. Alvin Bragg is leading the prosecution, while Todd Blanche and Susan Necheles are representing Trump in court. 

March 26: Judge Merchan Issues Gag Order

On March 26, Judge Juan M. Merchan – who is presiding over the ‘Hush Money’ case – issued a gag order barring Trump from commenting publicly about witnesses, prosecutors, court staff and jurors ahead of the April 15 trial.

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“Given that the eve of trial is upon us, it is without question that the imminency of the risk of harm is now paramount,” Merchan wrote in his decision. The judge highlighted the former President’s history of ‘threatening, inflammatory, denigrating’ rhetoric as a reason for the order.

March 27: Trump Attacks Merchan On Truth Social

On March 27, Trump took to his Truth Social account and blasted Judge Merchan – who he says was ‘suffering from an acute case of Trump Derangement Syndrome.’ Trump accused Merchan of stripping him of his First Amendment right in an effort to persecute him.

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He also accused the judge’s daughter – Loren Merchan – of representing ‘Crooked Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, Adam “Shifty” Schiff, and other Radical Liberals.’ He questioned why she was allowed to talk about him ahead of the trial, but he wasn’t allowed to talk about her. 

March 28: Trump Calls Merchan ‘Totally Compromised’

On March 28, Trump continued his attack on the father-daughter duo. He described the judge as ‘totally compromised’ and called his daughter ‘a Rabid Trump Hater’ who has admitted to talking to her father about Trump.

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“It shouldn’t exist except for the fact that we have a Biased, Conflicted, and Corrupt Judge and D.A. in charge. Dismiss this ridiculous Non-Case, and MAKE THE AMERICAN JUSTICE SYSTEM GREAT AGAIN!” Trump wrote on Truth Social. 

March 30: Calls Hush Money Case A ‘Witch Hunt’

The Truth Social posts continued on March 30 when Trump called the case a ‘disgrace to our legal system.’ He demanded Judge Merchan be ‘immediately sanctioned and recused’ and that the ‘fake case’ be ‘completely dismissed right away.’

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“It is a political, election-interfering witch hunt, just like all of the other hoaxes, headed up and coordinated by the DOJ, against the political opponent of Crooked Joe Biden in order to help get the worst President in the history of the United States re-elected,” Trump continued.

Federal Judge Criticizes Trump In Rare Interview

On March 28, the plot thickened when a sitting federal judge – US District Judge Reggie Walton – criticized Trump in a rare interview with Kaitlan Collins on CNN’s The Source. In the interview, he spoke out against threats being made against judges.

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“It’s very disconcerting to have someone making comments about a judge, and it’s particularly problematic when those comments are in the form of a threat, especially if they’re directed at one’s family,” Walton said last week. 

Says Attacks On Judges Shouldn’t Happen

Walton goes on to add that the rule of law is only effective when judges are prepared to ‘carry out their duties without the threat of potential physical harm’ – though he also said that judges need to fulfill their duty even in the presence of a threat. 

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“But nonetheless, it is very troubling because I think it is an attack on the rule of law when judges are threatened and particularly when their family is threatened and it’s something that’s wrong and should not happen,” Walton said.

Judge Merchan Expands Gag Order To Include Family

On April 1, Judge Merchan expanded the gag order, barring the former president from attacking the family members of the district attorney and the judge himself – though he refused to include himself and Bragg in that order. 

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Merchan also sent a stern warning that Trump could ‘forfeit any statutory right he may have to access juror names if he engages in any conduct that threatens the safety and integrity of the jury or the jury selection process.’ 

Mike Davis Files Ethics Complaint Against Walton

Mike Davis – a lawyer and major ally of Trump who serves as president of the Article III Project – responded to Walton’s criticism of Trump by filing an ethics complaint against him for violating a canon in the Code of Conduct for U.S. judges.

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That canon states, “A judge should not make public comment on the merits of a matter pending or impending in any court.” The ethics complaint was filed to Chief Judge Sri Srinivasan of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Argues That Trump Never Threatened Merchan

In his argument, Davis says Walton was wrong to criticize Trump because the former President has yet to threaten anyone. Instead, he says Trump has merely ‘articulated the reason why he believes he will not receive a fair trial.’

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“A reasonable person cannot read President Trump’s posts and draw the conclusion that he made any such threat,” Davis wrote – adding that he didn’t dox the home addresses of the judge and his adult daughter. “Nor did President Trump encourage illegal protests outside of their homes.”

Trump Could Face Fine If He Violates Gag Order

Shira Scheindlin, a former U.S. District Judge in New York, outlined the consequences Trump would face if he violated the gag order again – arguing that it would be handled the same way New York State Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron handled it in a separate case against Trump.

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“The first thing you can do is to give a warning. I think that’s been covered. The second step would be a fine, followed by jail,” she said. Trump faced a $5,000 fine after violating a gag order in a business fraud case in October 2023. 

Trump Has Gag Orders In Three Of Four Criminal Cases

This isn’t the first time Trump has received a gag order – in fact, he has a gag order against him in three of his four criminal cases. Judge Tanya Chutkan issued one in his federal election subversion case, and Judge Arthur Engoron issued one in a civil case brought against Trump.

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“In the two criminal cases they did not actually make [gag orders] part of the conditions of release and require Mr. Trump to sign that he understands his conditions have now been expanded and if he violates them his release can be revoked,” Mary McCord told MSNBC.