Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg asks for gag order in Trump hush money case after dozens of threats

Trump is charged with falsifying records related to a hush money payment.

February 26, 2024, 6:13 PM

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg on Monday asked a judge to impose a limited gag order on former President Donald Trump, who is charged in New York with falsifying business records related to hush money he paid to adult film actress Stormy Daniels.

In their request, prosecutors cited what they called Trump's "longstanding and perhaps singular history" of attacking people he considers to be adversaries, including those associated with his other criminal and civil cases.

The trial in Trump's hush money case is scheduled to get underway on March 25.

Trump is already under a limited gag order in his federal election interference case in Washington, D.C., and prosecutors in Manhattan are seeking a similar "narrowly tailored order restricting certain prejudicial extrajudicial statements by defendant."

The motion for a limited gag order on Trump's public statements includes an affidavit from NYPD Sgt. Nicholas Pistilli, Bragg's head of security, who noticed "an extraordinary surge" in threats against the DA after Trump began targeting him on social media.

The NYPD Threat Assessment and Protection Unit logged 89 threats against the district attorney, his family or employees of his office in 2023, the first of which occurred the same day Trump posted on social media to "protest, take our nation back!" according to the filing.?In all of 2022, the same unit logged just one threat against Bragg, the filing said.

According to the filing, there were some 600 phone calls and emails that were forwarded to police for review in March 2023 alone.

PHOTO: Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg speaks during a news conference at his office in New York City, February 22, 2024.
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg speaks during a news conference at his office in New York City, February 22, 2024.
Brendan Mcdermid/Reuters

The filing also included photos and screenshots of harassing messages, firearms and handwritten threats that prosecutors said demonstrate the impact of Trump's social media posts and behavior.

In a statement to ABC News, Trump campaign spokesman Steven Cheung pushed back on the requested for the limited gag order, saying that, if granted, it would "impose an unconstitutional infringement on President Trump's First Amendment rights, including his ability to defend himself, and the rights of all Americans to hear from President Trump."

The Manhattan DA's office also asked the judge to allow the now-infamous 2005 "Access Hollywood" tape to be played for the jury. Prosecutors argued the tape is "highly relevant" to Trump's motive for making the hush payment to Daniels to silence her accusations of a long-denied affair.

"The release of the tape -- and the accompanying concerns about its possible impact on the election -- are thus directly related to the Stormy Daniels payoff, which was executed just a few weeks later," Assistant District Attorney Matthew Colangelo wrote.

Attorney for Trump, in their own filings, argued against the introduction of the "Access Hollywood" tape and other defense requests.

"Given the Access Hollywood recording's inherent prejudice and extremely limited probative value, the Court should preclude evidence regarding the recording at trial," argued the defense filing, which said playing the tape would be "inflammatory;" that it would offer limited value for the jurors; and that it "has no place at this trial about documents and accounting practices."

Trump has pleaded not guilty to 34 counts in the hush money case and has criticized Bragg and Judge Juan Merchan, as well as witnesses that include Trump's former personal attorney and fixer Michael Cohen.

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"[Trump] has a long history of making public and inflammatory remarks about the participants in various judicial proceedings against him, including jurors, witnesses, lawyers and court staff," prosecutors said in their filing, adding that Trump's remarks "pose a significant and imminent threat to the orderly administration of this criminal proceeding."

In a series of motions filed Monday, prosecutors also asked the judge to bar the defense from introducing evidence or argument about Cohen's credibility. Cohen was accused of committing perjury when he testified in October in Trump's civil fraud trial.

"Michael Cohen is a liar," the defense responded in their filing. "He recently committed perjury, on the stand and under oath, at a civil trial involving President Trump. If his public statements are any indication, he plans to do so again at this criminal trial."

The judge in Trump's civil fraud trial also imposed a limited gag order on Trump that prohibited the former president from making comments about court staff.

In the hush money case, the Manhattan DA's office wants the judge to bar Trump from making public statements about witnesses, jurors, court staff and prosecutors other than Bragg.

"As other courts have found, these reasonable prophylactic measures are amply warranted by defendant's past conduct and by the risk of prejudice to the pending proceeding if appropriate protective steps are not taken," prosecutors wrote. "The relief requested here is narrowly tailored to protect the integrity of the upcoming trial while still affording defendant ample opportunity to engage in speech, including speech about this case."

In their filing, defense attorneys also requested that Judge Merchan prevent Daniels from being called as a witness, arguing that her testimony would offer little relevance while inserting unnecessary salaciousness to the trial.

"Similar to Cohen, she seeks to tell contrived stories with salacious details of events she claimed occurred nearly 20 years ago, which have no place at a trial involving the types of charges at issue," defense lawyers wrote.

They also sought to limit the introduction of Trump's past statements -- including from his past books -- into evidence, arguing that they argued have little relevance and would lead to confusion.

"Whatever President Trump's style of business operations was ... is by no means probative for how he would have operated those businesses when he was President of the United States of America," lawyers wrote.

Prosecutors, in the meantime, are also seeking a protective order that would prohibit disclosure of juror names to anyone other than Trump and his attorneys.

Trump last April pleaded not guilty to a 34-count indictment charging him with falsifying business records in connection with a hush money payment made to Daniels just days before the 2016 presidential election.

The former president has denied all wrongdoing.

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