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The criminal trial of former President Donald Trump has become more complicated due to a gag order imposed by Judge Juan Merchan. Trump is prohibited from speaking about witnesses, the jury, and members of the district attorney’s staff, except for Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg. The gag order has been expanded to include barring Trump from discussing family members of the judge, including his daughter. Despite these restrictions, Trump called out Merchan’s daughter on social media, leading to fines and threats of jail time for violating the court rules.

Trump’s legal team has appealed the gag order, arguing that it is unilateral and only applies to Trump, not other expected witnesses like Michael Cohen. The Appellate Division granted an expedited briefing timeline for the appeal, with both sides having specific deadlines to file their responses. Trump’s lawyers have also raised concerns about Merchan’s potential conflict of interest due to his daughter’s involvement in the case and have questioned the limitations on commenting on other individuals involved, such as former Justice Department official Michael Colangelo.

Legal experts believe that if the issue were to reach the Supreme Court, the gag order would likely be overturned. They argue that restricting a presidential candidate from criticizing the court or the process during an election is a violation of free speech. While the issue is still before the Appellate Division, concerns have been raised about the potential for a constitutional crisis if Trump is put in jail for contempt of court. Experts suggest that the order should be limited to specific threats of violence or lawlessness rather than broad restrictions on speech.

The Trump campaign has criticized the gag order as unconstitutional and un-American, arguing that it limits Trump’s ability to defend himself and participate in the legal process. The dispute between Trump and Judge Merchan has escalated with the possibility of jail time looming if Trump continues to violate the order. While the Appellate Division has granted an expedited briefing timeline for the appeal, the details of the argument and specific challenges to the order have not been made public. The outcome of the appeal could have significant implications for the ongoing legal proceedings and Trump’s ability to publicly comment on the case.

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