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Donald Trump at Manhattan Criminal Court in New York City
Donald Trump at Manhattan Criminal Court in New York City, on April 18, 2024.Jabin Botsford / Popl via Getty Images

With message about jurors, Trump puts his gag order to the test

Donald Trump is already dealing with a gag order in his criminal case. With his online antics about the jury, the defendant is playing with fire.


Donald Trump has an unfortunate habit, which I like to call “preemptive delegitimization.” The way it works is relatively simple: When there’s even a possibility that the former president might be held accountable for alleged wrongdoing, the Republican goes to ridiculous lengths to undermine public confidence in the process, the officials, and the institutions.

The motivations behind preemptive delegitimization are obvious: If efforts to hold him accountable are inherently corrupt and unreliable, then the outcome deserves to be discarded, regardless of merit.

It’s precisely why Trump has spent recent years railing hysterically against assorted judges, prosecutors, district attorney’s offices, jurisdictions, courts, and even the nation’s system of justice itself. The more the presumptive GOP nominee was accused of serious wrongdoing, the more he felt the need to effectively say, “If I’m convicted, it doesn’t count.”

Yesterday, the former president managed to break new ground with a social media item about jurors in his ongoing criminal trial in New York. NBC News reported this morning:

Prosecutor Chris Conroy handed up a new order in response to Trump’s social media posts. The DA alleges that Trump has violated the judge’s gag order seven more times and they want the posts included in the hearing scheduled for Tuesday. On Wednesday, the former president complained about the jury selection process and Conroy said “most disturbingly,” Trump quoted a Fox News host suggesting that “undercover” liberal activists are lying to get onto the jury.

Yes, late yesterday afternoon, Trump used his social media platform to promote a quote from a Fox News personality who purportedly said, “They are catching undercover Liberal Activists lying to the Judge in order to get on the Trump Jury.”

Joyce Vance, a former federal prosecutor and an MSNBC legal analyst, noted online soon after, “A full jury isn’t even sworn in and he’s already coming for them.”

It is, to be sure, awfully tough to defend the suspected felon’s latest antics, but it was the local prosecutor’s reference to the gag order this morning that was of particular interest.

A few weeks ago, as my MSNBC colleague Jordan Rubin explained, Judge Juan Merchan imposed a gag order on Trump. The former president responded soon after by going after the judge’s daughter — publicly and repeatedly — which led to a revised gag order.

Trump can still talk publicly about much of the case — indeed, he rarely stops talking about it — but among other things, the criminal defendant is supposed to refrain from making public statements “about any prospective juror or any juror in this criminal proceeding.”

All of which suggests that Trump might very well have crossed a line.

Let’s not forget that it was nearly two weeks ago when Trump also used his social media platform to declare that it would be a “great honor” to be jailed for violating a gag order. As part of the same boast, the former president compared himself — in apparent seriousness — to Nelson Mandela.

I will leave it to legal experts to reflect on whether the defendant has reason to worry about being held in contempt, but either way, it seems clear that Trump is playing with fire at an inopportune time.