After verdict in hush money trial: Trump requests lifting of speech ban

Following his criminal conviction in the hush money trial, former US President Donald Trump has requested that a ban on speaking issued against him be lifted. In a letter to New Judge Juan Merchan on Tuesday, Trump's lawyer Todd Blanche argued that the ban on statements about those involved in the trial only applied to the period of the trial.

After the trial had concluded, the reasons given by the prosecution and the court for the ban on speech no longer justified “continued restrictions” on Trump's fundamental right to freedom of speech, Blanche wrote. At the same time, he stressed that from the defense's point of view, there had never been a “legally valid basis” for the ban.

Before the trial began, Judge Merchan had banned Trump from making any statements that could potentially impact the proceedings about witnesses, jurors, prosecutors, court employees and the prosecution. He later extended the ban to include statements about the judge's family and Chief Prosecutor Alvin Bragg.

Merchan imposed fines totaling $10,000 on Trump for repeated violations of the speech ban. The judge also threatened the likely Republican presidential candidate with imprisonment if he again made derogatory comments about those involved in the trial. However, the speech ban does not apply to Merchan himself, whom Trump repeatedly describes as “corrupt.”

In the trial last week, Trump was found guilty by the jury of falsifying business records to cover up hush money paid to former porn actress Stormy Daniels. The 77-year-old is the first former US president in history to be convicted of a criminal offense.

Stormy Daniels was silenced by the hush money payment shortly before the 2016 presidential election about an alleged sex affair that she herself said she had with Trump ten years earlier and which he denied.

Trump's sentence has yet to be announced. Merchan has set a date of July 11. Trump faces a prison sentence, but experts believe that probation or a fine are more likely, as this is his first criminal conviction and the offense is not violent.

In his letter to Merchan, Blanche justified the demand for the lifting of the speech ban by saying that Trump must be able to conduct his election campaign against President Joe Biden “without restrictions”. In this context, the defense attorney emphasized that Biden was publicly commenting on the verdict against his election rival, and that Stormy Daniels and Trump's ex-lawyer Michael Cohen, who had appeared as witnesses for the prosecution in the trial, would continue their public attacks against the ex-president.

Trump wants to run again in the November election against Biden, who he lost to in 2020. Trump is to be formally named the Republican presidential candidate at a party convention that begins four days after the date of his sentencing.

The right-wing populist is also facing criminal charges in three other cases. Two of these cases involve his massive attempts to retrospectively overturn his 2020 election defeat to Biden, and another case involves his taking secret government documents to his private property in the state of Florida. When the trials in these three cases could begin, however, is completely uncertain.

Trump describes himself as a victim of a politically controlled justice system and his criminal prosecution as an impermissible interference in the presidential election campaign.