Klasfeld’s reporting is part of Just Security’s Trump Trials Clearinghouse

On Monday, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg asked a judge to impose a “narrowly tailored” gag order that would bar Donald Trump from swiping at jurors, witnesses, prosecutors, and court staff assigned to the first criminal case against the former president currently expected to go to trial.

Prosecutors made their request just less than a month before a trial is anticipated to begin. The case involves charges accusing Trump of falsifying business records dozens of times to keep voters in the dark about his alleged affair with pornographic film actress Stormy Daniels during the 2016 presidential campaign. 

In a 30-page memo, prosecutors call the measure necessary in light of Trump’s “long history of making public and inflammatory remarks about the participants in various judicial proceedings against him.” 

They also note that other courts have reached the same conclusion. 

In his New York civil fraud case, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron imposed a narrow gag order preventing Trump from speaking about courtroom staff, after the former president denigrated the judge’s principal law clerk. An appellate court upheld Engoron’s order.

Over in Washington, D.C., Justice Department Special Counsel Jack Smith successfully requested restrictions barring Trump from attacking known witnesses in the case accusing the former president of committing four federal crimes in his quest to overturn his 2020 electoral defeat. In their memo, Bragg’s prosecutors cited a federal appellate court’s ruling largely affirming Smith’s requested gag order. 

Notably, Trump’s bond order in Fulton County, Georgia requires Trump not to make any “direct or indirect threat of any nature” against co-defendants, witnesses, victims, or the community including through “posts on social media or reposts of posts.” 

The Manhattan DA’s memo swings somewhat more broadly than either of the previously requested gag orders. It seeks to bar Trump from “making or directing others to make public statements about known or reasonably foreseeable witnesses,” “counsel in the case other than the District attorney,” “members of the court’s staff and the District Attorney’s staff,” “the family members of any counsel or staff member” under certain conditions, and jurors. 

Trump routinely attacks judges, prosecutors, and jurors in public statements and through his website Truth Social, where he  has denigrated Bragg as a “Soros-backed” Democratic operative and “racist.” Trump has used the latter word to describe Bragg and New York Attorney General Letitia James, both of whom are Black. 

The former president’s rhetoric, prosecutors say, sparked “hundreds of threats” against the DA.

“The Office also responded to terroristic mailings twice around the time of defendant’s indictment in this matter. In late March 2023, the Office received a letter addressed to the District Attorney containing a small amount of white powder and a note stating: ‘Alvin: I’m going to kill you,’” the memo states. “In April 2023, the Office received a letter addressed to the District Attorney containing a white powder and a note that included images of the District Attorney and Donald Trump and the words ‘you will be sorry.’”

Both incidents were widely reported in the press and led to heavy security at the time of Trump’s indictment. 

Despite that history, Bragg’s gag order request would appear to let Trump continue attacking the DA himself, following a pattern of similar constraints on the former president’s speech. In the civil fraud case, Justice Engoron allowed Trump to attack him, just not his staff. In the 2020 election case in D.C., the final form of the gag order approved by an appellate court allowed Trump to attack Special Counsel Smith, not his assistants. (Smith initially had proposed broader language.)

Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan must decide whether to impose Bragg’s requested gag order — and the boundaries of the order. Also on Monday, the district attorney’s prosecutors asked the judge to issue a separate protective order to safeguard the jury pool. Unlike in federal court, New York State rules do not allow for fully anonymized juries, and Trump will be allowed to learn the names of jurors. (The federal juries that decided E. Jean Carroll’s sexual abuse and defamation lawsuits against Trump were identified only by a number, for their protection.) But Bragg has asked the judge to forbid their identities from leaking out

Read the gag order request here.  

IMAGE: Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg speaks during a press conference following the arraignment of former U.S. President Donald Trump April 4, 2023 in New York City. (Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images)