A Judge Asked Trump to Chill. Trump Mocked the Judge’s Wife.

“I have a Trump-hating judge with a Trump-hating wife and family,” the former president said just hours after leaving the courtroom.
Cameron Joseph
Washington, US
Former US President Donald Trump arrives to deliver remarks at the Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida, US, on Tuesday, April 4, 2023. (Photo: Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Former President Donald Trump won’t face a gag order in his criminal case—yet. 

But if he keeps making ominous, threatening-sounding comments and social media posts, he just might get one. 

Trump received a very delicately worded warning from the judge in his Manhattan fraud case during his arraignment on Tuesday. Judge Juan Merchan effectively told Trump that if he doesn’t stop making incendiary statements, the judge may order him to shut up about his case—an order that would come with the implied threat of jail time. 


“Defense counsel, speak to your client and anybody else you need to, and remind them to please refrain from making statements that are likely to incite violence or civil unrest, or jeopardize the safety or well-being of any individuals,” Merchan said. 

Then the judge gestured toward a print-out of Trump’s vitriolic social media posts prosecutors had just handed him in court—posts in which Trump warned of “death & destruction” if he were criminally charged, and a picture of Trump holding a baseball bat over the head of District Attorney Alvin Bragg, the lead prosecutor in Trump’s case. 

“This is a request I’m making,” Judge Merchan said. “But if I were handed something like this in the future, I’d have to take another look at it.”

Trump attacks anyway

But Trump, who can seemingly never stop himself, proceeded to mock Judge Merchan’s family in a rambling appearance only hours after leaving the courtroom. 

“I have a Trump-hating judge with a Trump-hating wife and family, whose daughter worked for Kamala Harris and now receives money from the Biden-Harris campaign,” Trump said. 

That’s hardly the kind of statement that lawyers would advise defendants to make about the judge overseeing their criminal case, to put it mildly. 

Trump spent most of his Tuesday night speech attacking those investigating him. 

Trump blasted Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, the prosecutor responsible for Trump’s courtroom appearance on Tuesday, as a "radical left George Soros-backed prosecutor," tying Bragg to a favorite antisemitic punching bag of the right.


He slammed Fulton County, Georgia District Attorney Fani Willis as a “racist” and New York Attorney General Letitia James as a “racist in reverse,” accusing the pair of Black women of hating him because he is white.

And Trump oddly took aim at the Justice Department special prosecutor Jack Smith, calling him a "lunatic" multiple times and bizarrely appearing to suggest that Smith might be trans.

“I wonder what it was prior to a change,” he said about Smith's name, pausing for laughs.

Gag order fears

Trump’s inner circle has been openly fretting about the possibility that Trump could be gagged in his Manhattan criminal case, which revolves around accusations that Trump falsified business records relating to a 2016 hush money payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels. 

A gag order would silence Trump on his new favorite subject: His claims of political persecution at the hands of supposedly biased prosecutors. 

Trump has sought to rally his supporters around him, and argued that the charges are actually unifying Republican voters to support him in the GOP primary. 

Trump has also been fundraising relentlessly off his criminal case, and his campaign claims it raked in $8 million in donations since the day he was indicted.


Meanwhile, Trump’s statements about prosecutors have grown increasingly vitriolic. 

During Tuesday’s arraignment, prosecutors in the Manhattan District Attorney’s office slammed Trump for making “a series of threatening and escalating statements” about their office. 

Assistant District Attorney Christopher Conway singled out a post in which Trump warned that “death & destruction” could follow if the former president was charged with a crime. 

“We have significant concern about the potential danger these posts pose,” Conway told Judge Merchan. 

Conway said Tuesday that prosecutors were not seeking a gag order yet. But they said they might get there if Trump keeps it up. 

“We are considering whether further measures will be necessary,” Conway told Judge Merchan. 

Trump’s attorney Todd Blanche argued that Trump’s comments weren’t intended to be threatening.

“They’re not threats, they’re not harassment,” Blanche said. “He has rights. He’s allowed to speak publicly.” 

Judge Merchan said Trump’s Constitutional rights to free speech should be protected, especially since Trump is running for president. 

“We’re not close to a gag order,” Judge Merchan said. 

But it remains to be seen whether Judge Merchan may begin to feel differently, if Trump keeps speaking out the way he did on Tuesday night.