Former President Donald Trump speaks to the media alongside his...

Former President Donald Trump speaks to the media alongside his attorney Todd Blanche after the conclusion of his hush money trial in Manhattan on May 30. Credit: Pool via AP / Michael M. Santiago

Former President Donald Trump may speak freely about the jurors and witnesses involved in the hush money case that led to his conviction, but still must keep his opinions to himself regarding family members of the prosecutors and the court, a new ruling from a Manhattan state Supreme Court judge shows.

Justice Juan Merchan on Tuesday lifted a portion of the gag order against Trump, which was still in place since his May 30 conviction on 34 counts of falsifying business records, according to a nine-page ruling. The decision came in response to a motion from the lawyers of the former president arguing that he should be able to speak freely during the upcoming presidential debate on Thursday.

Trump, the Republican front-runner for president, complained that the continued ban on his ability to hit back against his political enemies, like adult film actress Stormy Daniels and his former fixer, Michael Cohen, put him at a disadvantage for the upcoming election and infringed on his First Amendment rights.

The former president has never been barred from speaking about President Joe Biden, the judge or Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who brought charges against him.

Merchan gagged the former president in March under the belief that the court would be unable to find jurors to weigh the evidence if they feared for their safety.

The judge amended the gag order in April after Trump attacked his daughter, who works as a consultant on Democratic campaigns, to prevent statements about the family members of the court workers and prosecutors.

Despite the restrictions, Merchan found that Trump had violated the order 10 times and fined him $10,000. He also threatened to jail him for further comments.

The judge said that he must lift the ban against Trump saying anything or directing others to say something about the jurors in the case because of an appellate court ruling, but he wrote that he had a “strong preference to extend those protections.”

Merchan did extend the order protecting the identities and addresses of the panel, saying “there is ample evidence to justify continued concern for the jurors.”

Prosecutors asked the judge to keep the gag order in a motion last week, citing a flood of email and online threats that the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office has received since the case began.

There have been 56 threats against Bragg and his family in April, May and June, according to the NYPD Threat Assessment and Protection Unit. Bragg’s office got 500 additional threatening emails and phone calls since April.

“The recent threat activity directly connected to [Trump’s] dangerous rhetoric about this prosecution includes bomb threats at the homes of two people involved in this case on April 15, 2024 — the first day of trial,” Manhattan prosecutor Matthew Colangelo wrote in his motion to oppose lifting the gag order.

The judge agreed to keep the part of the gag order that protects members of the court and the prosecution.

“[They] must continue to perform their lawful duties free from threats, intimidation, harassment, and harm,” Merchan wrote in his ruling.

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