GOP in battleground states rip Trump trial judge’s ‘dangerous’ ruling

The judge presiding over former President Donald Trump’s ongoing New York City trial is taking heat from a rare coalition formed to jointly condemn his ‘dangerous’ gag order ruling that it says ‘poses a dire threat to our democracy.’

The group, made up mostly of prominent Republican candidates running in battleground states crucial to flipping the Senate red in November, includes Pennsylvania’s Dave McCormick, Wisconsin’s Eric Hovde, Ohio’s Bernie Moreno, Michigan’s Mike Rogers, Arizona’s Kari Lake, Indiana’s Jim Banks, Nevada’s Sam Brown, Montana’s Tim Sheehy and West Virginia’s Jim Justice.

All signed onto a joint statement condemning Judge Juan Merchan’s imposition of the ‘unconstitutional’ gag order, which Trump himself has called ‘election interference.’

‘We have deep concerns regarding the gag order imposed on President Trump, as it fundamentally violates constitutional principles and threatens the very essence of freedom of speech and expression in the middle of an election,’ the group said.

‘The First Amendment of the United States Constitution explicitly guarantees the right to freedom of speech, stating that ‘Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.’ This fundamental right is not contingent upon one’s political affiliation or position of power,’ they said.

The group went on to say that ‘any attempt to silence or restrict the speech of a candidate for president undermines the core values upon which our democracy is built,’ and it set a ‘dangerous precedent’ for presidents and other elected officials in the future.

‘If we allow such actions to go unchecked, it opens the door for authoritarian tendencies to flourish, where those in power can suppress dissenting voices and control the narrative to serve their own interests. Make no mistake: Silencing a candidate for public office, under the threat of imprisonment, poses a dire threat to our democracy,’ they said.

The group added that the gag order also affected the American public by inhibiting their ‘right to information and transparency,’ and that they ‘have a right to be informed about the actions and statements of their elected leaders.’

‘In conclusion, the gag order imposed on President Trump is a clear violation of the First Amendment and represents a dangerous encroachment on the fundamental rights that form the bedrock of our democracy. America must stand firm in defense of these principles and resist any attempts to undermine them, regardless of political affiliations or personal opinions,’ they said.

Merchan imposed the gag order on Trump before his trial began last month, ordering that the former president cannot make or direct 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. He also ordered that Trump cannot make or direct others to make public statements about any prospective juror or chosen juror.

In his ruling, Merchan pointed to Trump’s ‘prior extrajudicial statements,’ saying they establish ‘a sufficient risk to the administration of justice.’ 

Merchan ruled Tuesday that Trump violated the gag order banning him from speaking publicly about witnesses and family members of court officials. He specifically ruled Trump violated the order on nine separate occasions in social media posts, with each violation resulting in a $1,000 fine. The former president was ordered to pay $9,000 for violating the gag order. 

Following Merchan’s ruling, Trump removed the social media posts found in violation of the order from his Truth Social account. The ruling comes after Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office accused Trump of violating the order 14 times since it was imposed last month.

Trump has repeatedly railed against the gag order, calling the case overall a ‘scam’ promoted by the Biden administration and saying the gag order has stripped him of the ability to defend himself against accusations in the case.

Fox News’ Emma Colton and Brooke Singman contributed to this report.

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