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Trump attorneys request Merchan lift gag order ahead of presidential debate, following end of trial

EXCLUSIVE: Trump defense attorneys are requesting Judge Juan Merchan terminate the gag order restricting former President Trump from speaking about witnesses and the case now that the trial has concluded, citing the 2024 presidential election and the first debate against President Biden later this month, as well as the First Amendment rights of the former president and his supporters, Fox News Digital has learned. 

Fox News Digital obtained a letter Trump defense attorney Todd Blanche sent to Merchan Tuesday. 

TRUMP GUILTY ON ALL COUNTS IN NEW YORK CRIMINAL TRIAL

The former president and presumptive Republican presidential nominee was found guilty on all 34 counts of falsifying business records in the first degree last week. The six-week-long trial stemmed from charges brought by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg. 

Merchan imposed a gag order on Trump before the trial began, barring Trump from making or directing others to make public statements about witnesses with regard to their potential participation or about counsel in the case — other than Bragg — or about court staff, DA staff or family members of staff.

Trump’s team repeatedly appealed the order and have been denied. 

“We respectfully submit this pre-motion letter requesting that Your Honor terminate the gag order restricting President Trump’s extrajudicial statements,” Blanche wrote. “For the reasons set forth below, because the trial has concluded, the stated bases for the gag order no longer exist.” 

Blanche said Trump’s legal team disagreed with the “proffered justifications for the gag order” to begin with, but said now that the trial is complete, the order should be lifted. 

“Now that the trial is concluded, the concerns articulated by the government and the Court do not justify continued restrictions on the First Amendment rights of President Trump—who remains the leading candidate in the 2024 presidential election—and the American people,” Blanche wrote. 

Blanche added that the “constitutional mandate for unrestrained campaign advocacy by President Trump is even stronger in light of” comments made by President Biden and his campaign, as well as “continued public attacks” by the government’s witnesses like Michael Cohen and Stormy Daniels. 

Blanche also cited the first presidential debate on June 27 as a reason the order should be lifted. 

TRUMP SAYS GUILTY VERDICT IS A ‘SCAR’ ON NEW YORK JUSTICE SYSTEM, VOWS TO ‘KEEP FIGHTING’

A footnote in the letter states: “The defense does not concede that there was ever a valid basis for the gag order and reserves the right to challenge the irreparable First Amendment harms caused by the order.” 

Trump campaign communications director Steven Cheung told Fox News Digital on Tuesday that the gag order is “unconstitutional and un-American.” 

Merchan, Trump

“As made clear by President Trump and his legal team, the wrongful gag order was a big part of how the Manhattan sham trial was rigged and should be lifted immediately,” Cheung told Fox News Digital. 

Trump was fined $10,000 for violating the gag order during the trial. Merchan also threatened Trump with jail time for further alleged violations.

“The last thing I want to consider is jail,” Merchan said. “You are [the] former president and possibly the next president.” 

“The magnitude of that decision is not lost on me,” Merchan said. “Your continued willful violation of the court’s order…constitutes a direct attack…and will not be allowed to continue…It is not allowed to continue.” 

Trump and his defense attorneys have maintained that the former president and presumptive Republican presidential nominee should not be bound by the gag order, saying it violates his First Amendment rights as well as the First Amendment rights of his supporters. 

Trump’s sentencing date is set for July 11 — just four days before the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee, where he is expected to be formally nominated as the 2024 Republican presidential nominee. 

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