Trump must 'immediately desist' from targeting judge's daughter, prosecutors say

The request comes after Trump targeted the daughter of the judge in his NY case.

Two days after former President Donald Trump targeted the daughter of the judge overseeing his New York hush money case on social media, lawyers for the Manhattan district attorney have asked Judge Juan Merchan to clarify the case's limited gag order and "direct that defendant immediately desist from attacks on family members," according to a letter sent to the judge.

"[T]his Court should make abundantly clear that the March 26 Order protects family members of the Court, the District Attorney, and all other individuals mentioned in the Order," said the letter, which was sent to the judge Thursday.

"Furthermore, the Court should warn defendant that his recent conduct is contumacious" -- i.e., stubbornly or willfully disobedient -- "and direct him to immediately desist," the letter said.

On Tuesday, Merchan issued a limited gag order prohibiting Trump from making comments about potential witnesses in the case, as well as jurors, lawyers, court staff, and their families. The order permitted Trump to continue making public comments about both Judge Merchan and Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg.

The following day, Trump railed against the gag order on his social media platform and criticized Merchan's daughter for a social media post that a court official said was not posted by her.

"So, let me get this straight, the Judge's daughter is allowed to post pictures of her 'dream' of putting me in jail, the Manhattan D.A. is able to say whatever lies about me he wants, the Judge can violate our Laws and Constitution at every turn, but I am not allowed to talk about the attacks against me," Trump wrote.

A court officials later said the supposed post from the judge's daughter was a "manipulation of an account she long ago abandoned."

Former President Donald Trump speaks during a press conference March 25, 2024 in New York City.
Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

In a letter sent on Thursday, prosecutor Joshua Steinglass asked Merchan to clarify the gag order in light of Trump's referencing Merchan's daughter.

"The People believe that the March 26 Order is properly read to protect family members of the Court. But to avoid any doubt, this Court should now clarify or confirm that the Order protects family members of the Court, the District Attorney, and all other individuals mentioned in the Order," the letter said.

Steinglass argued that "multiple potential witnesses" have expressed "gave concern" about their safety, and Trump's post could influence the participation of witnesses ahead of the April 15 trial.

"That is, potential trial witnesses and prospective jurors who are not currently the subject of defendant's invective will likely fear having themselves and their family members be subject to similar attacks," the letter said. "This fear is not hypothetical: in the course of preparing for trial, multiple potential witnesses have already expressed grave concerns to the People about their own safety and that of their family members should they appear as witnesses against defendant."

Trump's defense attorney Todd Blanche responded to the request by arguing that Trump's posts were permitted based on terms of the limited gag order, which does not explicitly prohibit statements about Merchan's family.

"The express terms of the gag order do not apply in the manner claimed by the People," Blanche wrote. "Contrary to the People's suggestion, the Court cannot 'direct' President Trump to do something that the gag order does not require."

Trump last April pleaded not guilty to a 34-count indictment charging him with falsifying business records in connection with a hush money payment his then-attorney Michael Cohen made to adult film actress Stormy Daniels just days before the 2016 presidential election.

Jury selection for the trial is scheduled to get underway April 15 in New York City. The former president has denied all wrongdoing.

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