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Trump cites Biden’s ‘disturbing grin’ in effort to terminate limited gag order in hush money case

Eva Marie Uzcategui/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) — Donald Trump’s lawyers are continuing their push to terminate the limited gag order in his New York hush money case, arguing that Trump’s “political opponents” — including President Joe Biden, Robert DeNiro, Michael Cohen, and Stormy Daniels — are using the gag order as a “sword” to attack the former president.

In a 21-page filing this week, Trump’s lawyers argued that the gag order was an “extraordinary, unprecedented, and unwarranted restriction” on Trump’s speech that has caused irreparable harm.

“These violations have harmed not only President Trump, but also the constitutional rights of all American people to receive and engage with President Trump’s protected campaign speech,” the filing said.

Trump in May was found guilty on all 34 felony counts of falsifying business records related to a hush money payment to Daniels, an adult film actress, in order to boost his electoral prospects in the 2016 presidential election.

Last week, Trump’s lawyers asked Judge Juan Merchan to terminate the gag order, which prohibits Trump from making public comments about witnesses, jurors, and other participants in the proceedings. The gag order does not impact Trump’s ability to make comments about the judge, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, or Biden. During the trial, Judge Merchan held Trump in criminal contempt 10 times for violating the limited gag order, which does not apply to President Biden.

Bragg responded last week by arguing that the gag order should remain in place at least until Trump’s sentencing — scheduled for July 11 — in order to protect the integrity of the proceedings. Judge Merchan asked for further briefings on the topic.

Trump’s filing this week renewed their main argument that the gag order is no longer necessary since the trial has ended, arguing that Trump’s remarks no longer present a clear danger to the proceedings. Defense lawyers argued that Trump should be able to respond to “attacks” from his political opponents, citing a Biden campaign event on May 28 featuring DeNiro as well as remarks from Biden himself following the verdict.

“On May 31, following carefully scripted remarks about the verdict at a press conference, President Biden offered a disturbing grin to the gathered media cameras when asked whether President Trump is his ‘political prisoner,'” the filing said.

Defense lawyers also argued that Cohen, Trump’s former attorney and the trial’s star witness, repeatedly “mocked” Trump following the verdict and that Daniels suggested in a interview that Trump’s wife Melania should leave him.

“President Trump’s opponents and adversaries are using the Gag Order as a political sword to attack President Trump with reference to this case, on the understanding that his ability to mount a detailed response is severely restricted by the Gag Order,” the filing said.

Trump’s lawyers also argued, without providing evidence, that Bragg’s push to keep the gag order in place was part of a coordinated “lawfare strategy” with “President Biden and their overlapping cast of associates” to silence the former president in the runup to the election.

“Such an unlawful restraint would be egregious here, where District Attorney Bragg is seeking to help President Biden and his political associates by asking the Court to silence President Trump during and after the upcoming presidential debate,” the filing said. “Worse still, the District Attorney is pursuing that strategy in a case he claims, falsely, is about influencing the 2016 election by allegedly withholding information from voters. The irony is palpable.”

The filing was docketed the same day that a top Department of Justice official confirmed that an extensive search of Justice Department records found no contacts between Bragg’s office and senior DOJ officials related to the Trump case, discrediting the former president’s repeated claim that federal officials coordinated the prosecution.

Speaking a day after Trump was found guilty, President Biden said the case “was a state case, not a federal case.”

“Now he’ll be given the opportunity, as he should, to appeal that decision, just like everyone else has that opportunity,” Biden said. “That’s how the American system of justice works, and it’s reckless, it’s dangerous, it’s irresponsible for anyone to say this was rigged just because they don’t like the verdict.”

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