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Judge declines to postpone Trump hush money trial, will consider whether to relax gag order

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(NEW YORK) — A New York appeals court judge declined to postpone the April 15 trial in former President Donald Trump’s hush money case. The full Appellate Division First Department will consider later this month whether to relax a limited gag order as Trump has requested.

The full panel of the appellate division will now consider in the coming weeks three components that could affect former President Trump’s upcoming criminal trial in New York.

As soon as Monday, the very day trial is scheduled to begin, the appellate court could decide whether to delay the trial while it considers Trump’s appeal of the gag order and a separate ruling that keeps the case in Manhattan.

By April 22, the parties must submit written arguments about change of venue. By April 29, the parties must submit written arguments about the gag order.

Trump’s defense lawyer Emil Bove argued Tuesday morning that the gag order creates an “irreparable harm” because the former president can’t respond to attacks from expected trial witnesses Michael Cohen and Stormy Daniels, and it prevents him from criticizing one of the prosecutors in the case and speaking in support of a recent motion to recuse the judge based on the conduct of his daughter.

Kern responded to Trump’s request for a stay of the entire proceeding with skepticism, asking how the gag order is any different from a similar order that was upheld in Trump’s federal election interference case.

“Mr. Cohen and Ms. Clifford are attacking President Trump in public in a way that is completely different from any witness in any of these cases,” Bove argued.

Steven Wu, a lawyer for the Manhattan District Attorney, pushed back on the request for a stay, telling the court about Trump’s “uncontested history” of denigrating remarks – including calling witnesses “losers,” “horse face,” and “deranged psychopaths.”

“The criminal trial should proceed regardless,” Wu said. “This is the very time when it is most important to ensure extrajudicial statements by the defendant do not prejudice the trial.”

Wu expressed concern about Trump’s remarks putting others in the “line of fire” and potentially impacting the participation of trial witnesses.

“There has already been difficulty finding witnesses in our case to come forward and testify,” Wu said.

Trump’s attorneys have previously complained the gag order hamstrings the presumptive Republican nominee in both his political campaign and his legal defense.

The challenge is structured using an administrative petition against Judge Juan Merchan, who has barred Trump from attacking witnesses, prosecutors and court staff.

Merchan recently expanded the gag order to include his family members after Trump repeatedly attacked the judge’s daughter over her work for a Democratic political consulting firm.

Trump previously challenged a limited gag order in his civil fraud case using this same method. He won a temporary stay before the full appeals court upheld the gag order in that case.

Trump last April pleaded not guilty to a 34-count indictment charging him with falsifying business records in connection with a hush money payment his then-attorney Michael Cohen made to adult film actress Stormy Daniels just days before the 2016 presidential election.

Jury selection for the trial is currently scheduled to get underway April 15 in New York City.

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