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Trump’s latest gag order speaks volumes

Donald Trump won a lower bond in his civil fraud case, his hush money case is moving ahead, and the Supreme Court pondered abortion pill access. 


Welcome back, Deadline: Legal newsletter readers. Donald Trump got bad news and good news this week. He has a firm trial date and a gag order in the hush money case. But he also won a lower bond in his civil fraud appeal. And the Supreme Court he helped build heard arguments over the fate of abortion pill access. (Spoiler alert: The pill will likely remain accessible.)

Jury selection in the hush money case is set for April 15. Judge Juan Merchan smacked down the defense’s attempt to delay the trial further over alleged discovery violations. Indeed, at a Monday hearing, the judge deemed it “odd” that “we are even here and that we have taken this time.” The remark could apply to the delays in all of Trump’s cases, but this one looks like it’s moving forward. 

That yet another judge took that step against the man who wants to lead the nation again speaks volumes.

And the former president is gagged ahead of that criminal trial, set to be the first against a former U.S. president. Merchan cited the defendant’s threats against people across the legal system. That yet another judge took that step against the man who wants to lead the nation again speaks volumes. More immediately, the upshot is that Trump can’t call out witnesses, prosecutors, court staff, their families or jurors. Neither Merchan himself nor his family is covered by the order, which the presumptive GOP nominee exploited to launch baseless verbal attacks on the judge’s daughter.  

Trump got better news in his civil fraud case. The New York state appeals court lowered the bond he has to post while he appeals the nine-figure verdict. The appellate court gave Trump 10 days from Monday to post $175 million, down from the nearly half-billion sum he was scrambling to meet. We’ll see if Trump can hit that lowered amount by next week. At any rate, MSNBC legal analyst Glenn Kirschner explained how the state appeals court “did Trump an enormous solid.” 

In Georgia, the state election interference case was back in court. The former president’s counsel pressed a First Amendment defense, which D.C. Judge Tanya Chutkan previously rejected in the federal election interference case. While the Georgia prosecution is moving forward, it’s unclear yet if Fani Willis will stay on it. The defense appeal of Judge Scott McAfee’s disqualification order is pending in the case, which still doesn’t have a trial date.

And one of Trump’s co-defendants, John Eastman, got some rough news this week. A California judge recommended disbarment for a key lawyer in Trump's attempts to overturn the election. The ruling, subject to appeal, said the evidence “clearly and convincingly proves that Eastman and President Trump entered into an agreement to obstruct the Joint Session of Congress by unlawfully having Vice President Pence reject or delay the counting of electoral votes on January 6, 2021.” As always, the Trump era is a story about lawyers.

Abortion was back at the Supreme Court in the mifepristone case. But the court that overturned Roe v. Wade didn’t sound eager to restrict reproductive rights further. There was nearly bipartisan consensus that the anti-abortion doctors who challenged mifepristone might lack the legal right to do so (what’s known as “standing”). So the contrived lawsuit’s days may be numbered, but we’ll have to see what the opinion says when it comes — likely in late June.

The justices are off the bench until the term’s final two-week session, starting April 15 — coincidentally, the same day jury selection begins in Manhattan. The April sitting features another important abortion-related appeal, a Jan. 6 case that could affect hundreds of defendants — including Trump — and, to cap it off, the April 25 hearing in Trump’s immunity appeal. Buckle up for a big month.

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