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Trump verbally attacks judges’ families. It’s strategic, lawyer says.

via NBC News

Donald Trump has repeatedly attacked the families of judges and prosecutors involved in legal cases against him, despite gag orders barring such comments.

In the Manhattan criminal case, Trump called the daughter of Judge Juan Merchan a “Rabid Trump Hater” on social media.

“It’s clearly strategic,” former White House lawyer Ty Cobb said.

“His attacks are designed around his traditional approach to delegitimizing the proceedings.”

Merchan then expanded the gag order to explicitly include family members of both the judge and lead prosecutor Alvin Bragg.

“The average observer, must now, after hearing Defendant’s recent attacks, draw the conclusion that if they become involved in these proceedings, even tangentially, they should worry not only for themselves, but for their loved ones as well,” Judge Merchan wrote. “Such concerns will undoubtedly interfere with the fair administration of justice and constitutes a direct attack on the Rule of Law itself.”

“This issue is not complicated,” Bragg’s team stated. “Family members of trial participants must be strictly off-limits. Defendant’s insistence to the contrary bespeaks a dangerous sense of entitlement to instigate fear and even physical harm to the loved ones of those he sees in the courtroom.”

Trump has launched similar attacks in other cases against the families of Justice Arthur Engoron and Judge Tanya Chutkan.

“In what world, in what case would it be allowable for a criminal defendant to attack a prosecutor’s family?” Chutkan asked.

His lawyers argue this is free speech and an attempt to show political bias, but critics say it undermines the rule of law and could incite threats.

“Your Honor, I don’t think there was an attack on a family member,” Trump lawyer John Lauro said. “What it was was an indication that there might be political bias in light of Mr. Smith, and certainly a First Amendment exercise of speech would allow a criminal defendant to observe that a prosecution is politically biased.”

The judges’ families have faced real threats, and one federal judge called Trump’s rhetoric “particularly problematic” and “an attack on the rule of law” when threatening family members.

As his legal issues mount, Trump continues exploiting loopholes in gag orders to publicly attack his judicial opponents.

“It’s very disconcerting to have someone making comments about a judge,” U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton said. “And it’s particularly problematic when those comments are in the form of a threat, especially if they’re directed at one’s family.”

He added, “It is an attack on the rule of law when judges are threatened, and particularly when their family is threatened.”

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