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Donald Trump’s lawyers are asking a New York judge to lift the gag order that barred the former president from commenting about witnesses, jurors and others tied to the criminal case that led to his conviction for falsifying records to cover up a potential sex scandal.

In a letter Tuesday, Trump lawyers Todd Blanche and Emil Bove asked Judge Juan M. Merchan to end the gag order, arguing there is nothing to justify “continued restrictions on the First Amendment rights of President Trump” now that the trial is over.

Among other reasons, the lawyers said Trump is entitled to “unrestrained campaign advocacy” in light of President Joe Biden’s public comments about the verdict last Friday, and continued public criticism of him by his ex-lawyer Michael Cohen and porn actor Stormy Daniels, both key prosecution witnesses.

Trump’s lawyers also contend the gag order must go away so he’s free to fully address the case and his conviction with the first presidential debate scheduled for June 27.

The Manhattan district attorney’s office declined to comment.

Merchan issued Trump’s gag order on March 26, a few weeks before the start of the trial, after prosecutors raised concerns about the presumptive Republican presidential nominee’s propensity to attack people involved in his cases.

Merchan later expanded it to prohibit comments about his own family after Trump made social media posts attacking the judge’s daughter, a Democratic political consultant. Comments about Merchan and District Attorney Alvin Bragg are allowed, but the gag order bars statements about court staff and members of Bragg’s prosecution team.

Trump was convicted Thursday of 34 counts of falsifying business records arising from what prosecutors said was an attempt to cover up a hush money payment to Daniels just before the 2016 election. She claims she had a sexual encounter with Trump a decade earlier, which he denies. He is scheduled to be sentenced July 11.

Prosecutors had said they wanted the gag order to “protect the integrity of this criminal proceeding and avoid prejudice to the jury.” In the order, Merchan noted prosecutors had sought the restrictions “for the duration of the trial.” He did not specify when they would be lifted.

Blanche told the Associated Press last Friday that it was his understanding the gag order would expire when the trial ended and that he would seek clarity from Merchan, which he did on Tuesday.


In his bid to become North Carolina’s first Black governor, Republican Mark Robinson assails government safety net spending as a “plantation of welfare and victimhood” that has mired generations of Black people in “dependency” and poverty.

But the lieutenant governor’s political rise wouldn’t have been possible without it.

Over the past decade, Robinson’s household has relied on income from Balanced Nutrition Inc., a nonprofit founded by his wife, Yolanda Hill, that administered a free lunch program for North Carolina children. The organization, funded entirely by taxpayers, has collected roughly $7 million in government funding since 2017, while paying out at least $830,000 in salaries to Hill, Robinson and other members of their family, tax filings and state documents show.

The income offered the Robinsons a degree of stability after decades of struggle that included multiple bankruptcies, home foreclosure and misdemeanor charges — later dropped — for writing bad checks. In Robinson’s telling, the financial turnaround provided by the organization also allowed for his ascent into the North Carolina government.

“Yolanda’s nonprofit was providing a salary for her that was enough to support us,” Robinson wrote in his 2022 memoir, noting its growth gave him the freedom to quit his furniture manufacturing job in 2018 and begin a career in populist conservative politics.

“I either was making speeches or was downtown at my wife’s office, helping her with her work,” he wrote of juggling his early political activity with Balanced Nutrition, which records indicate paid him about $40,000 in 2018. “When I ran for office, I stopped doing that. ... Now my son does it.”

Yet now in the closing months of a swing state campaign, the nonprofit that provided the family a vital lifeline has become a political liability. In March, state regulators launched a probe of the organization’s finances after flagging years of financial irregularities, including over $100,000 in unaccounted spending.

The scrutiny adds to Robinson’s challenges. He already has drawn negative attention for his history of inflammatory comments that include calling former first lady Michelle Obama a man and using the word “filth” when discussing gay and transgender people.

Robinson, who would oversee a state budget of more than $30 billion if elected governor, has denied any wrongdoing and blasted the inquiry as politically motivated. His campaign declined to make him or any of his family members available for an interview. But campaign spokesman Michael Lonergan defended Balance Nutrition’s work, citing a routine audit that didn’t find any “material weaknesses” in the organization’s 2021 finances.


Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas told attendees at a judicial conference Friday that he and his wife have faced “nastiness” and “lies” over the last several years and decried Washington, D.C., as a “hideous place.”

Thomas spoke at a conference attended by judges, attorneys and other court personnel in the 11th Circuit Judicial Conference, which hears federal cases from Alabama, Florida and Georgia. He made the comments pushing back on his critics in response to a question about working in a world that seems meanspirited.

“I think there’s challenges to that. We’re in a world and we — certainly my wife and I the last two or three years it’s been — just the nastiness and the lies, it’s just incredible,” Thomas said.

“But you have some choices. You don’t get to prevent people from doing horrible things or saying horrible things. But one you have to understand and accept the fact that they can’t change you unless you permit that,” Thomas said.

Thomas has faced criticisms that he took accepted luxury trips from a GOP donor without reporting them. Thomas last year maintained that he didn’t have to report the trips paid for by one of “our dearest friends.” His wife, conservative activist Ginni Thomas has faced criticism for using her Facebook page to amplify unsubstantiated claims of corruption by President Joe Biden, a Democrat.

He did not discuss the content of the criticisms directly, but said that “reckless” people in Washington will “bomb your reputation.”

“They don’t bomb you necessarily, but they bomb your reputation or your good name or your honor. And that’s not a crime. But they can do as much harm that way,” Thomas said.

During the appearance, Thomas was asked questions by U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle, one of Thomas’ former law clerks who was later appointed to the federal bench. During his hour-long appearance, the longest-serving justice on the court discussed a wide range of topics including the lessons of his grandfather, his friendship with former colleagues and his belief that court writings and discussions should be more accessible for “regular people.”

Thomas, who spent most of his working life in Washington D.C., also discussed his dislike of it.

“I think what you are going to find and especially in Washington, people pride themselves on being awful. It is a hideous place as far as I’m concerned,” Thomas said. Thomas said that it is one of the reasons he and his wife “like RVing.”

“You get to be around regular people who don’t pride themselves in doing harmful things, merely because they have the capacity to do it or because they disagree,” Thomas said.

A recreational vehicle used by Thomas also became a source of controversy. Senate Democrats in October issued a report saying that most of the $267,000 loan obtained by Thomas to buy a high-end motorcoach appears to have been forgiven.

Thomas did not discuss the court’s high-profile caseload.


Donald Trump’s defense team attacked the credibility of prosecutors’ first witness in his hush money case on Friday, seeking to discredit testimony detailing a scheme to bury negative stories to protect the Republican’s 2016 presidential campaign.

On the witness stand for a fourth day, former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker was grilled about his memory and past statements as the defense tried to poke holes in potentially crucial testimony in the first criminal trial of a former American president.

Two other witnesses followed Pecker as prosecutors built the foundation of their case involving a hush money payment to porn actor Stormy Daniels, who claimed she had a sexual encounter with Trump. Trump’s longtime executive assistant told jurors she recalled seeing Daniels in a reception area of Trump Tower, though the date of the visit wasn’t clear.

Pecker’s testimony provided jurors with a stunning inside look at the supermarket tabloid’s “catch-and-kill” practice of purchasing the rights to stories so they never see the light of day. He’s believed to be a key witness to bolster prosecutors’ theory that Trump sought to illegally influence the 2016 race by suppressing negative stories about his personal life.

Trump, who denies any wrongdoing, slammed the prosecution as he left the courthouse Friday after spending most of the week in his role as criminal defendant instead of political candidate. Trump seized on President Joe Biden’s remarks Friday that he’s willing to debate Trump. Trump told reporters he’s up for it anytime, anywhere.

Under cross-examination, Trump’s lawyers appeared to be laying the groundwork to make the argument that any dealings Trump had with Pecker were intended to protect Trump, his reputation and his family — not his campaign. The defense also sought to show that the National Enquirer was publishing negative stories about Trump’s 2016 rival, Hillary Clinton, long before an August 2015 meeting that is central to the case.

During that meeting, Pecker said he told Trump and then-Trump attorney Michael Cohen he would be the “eyes and ears” of the campaign, and would notify Cohen if he heard negative stories about Trump so they could be killed.

Under questioning by Trump lawyer Emil Bove, Pecker acknowledged there was no mention at that meeting of the term “catch-and-kill.” Nor was there discussion at the meeting of any “financial dimension,” such as the National Enquirer paying people on Trump’s behalf for the rights to their stories, Pecker said.


The final jurors were seated Friday in Donald Trump’s hush money trial, and an appellate judge rejected the former president’s latest bid to halt the case as a hectic day in court set the stage for opening statements to begin Monday.

The panel of New Yorkers who will decide the first criminal trial of a former U.S. president took final shape after lawyers spent days quizzing dozens of potential jurors on whether they can impartially judge Trump in the city where he built his real estate empire before being elected in 2016.

The trial thrusts Trump’s legal problems into the heart of his hotly contested race against President Joe Biden, with Trump’s opponent likely to seize on unflattering and salacious testimony to make the case that the presumptive Republican nominee is unfit to return as commander in chief.

Trump, meanwhile, is using the prosecution as a political rallying cry, casting himself as a victim while juggling his dual role as criminal defendant and presidential candidate. Judge Juan Merchan said lawyers will present opening statements Monday morning before prosecutors begin laying out their case alleging a scheme to cover up negative stories Trump feared would hurt his 2016 campaign. He has pleaded not guilty and says the stories were false.

Despite the failure of repeated previous attempts to delay the trial, a Trump attorney was in an appeals court hours after the jury was seated, arguing that Merchan rushed through jury selection and that Trump cannot get a fair trial in Manhattan.

Just after the jury was seated, emergency crews responded to a park outside the courthouse, where a man had set himself on fire. The man took out pamphlets espousing conspiracy theories and spread them around the park before dousing himself in a flammable substance and setting himself aflame, officials said. He was in critical condition Friday afternoon.

Trump has spent the week sitting quietly in the courtroom as lawyers pressed potential jurors on their views about him in a search for any bias that would preclude them from hearing the case. During breaks in the proceedings, he has railed against the case on social media or to TV cameras in the hallway, calling it a politically motivated “witch hunt.”

“This Trial is a Long, Rigged, Endurance Contest, dealing with Nasty, Crooked People, who want to DESTROY OUR COUNTRY,” he wrote Friday on social media.

Over five days of jury selection, dozens of people were dismissed from the jury pool after saying they didn’t believe they could be fair. Others expressed anxiety about having to decide such a consequential case with outsized media attention, even though the judge has ruled that jurors’ names will be known only to prosecutors, Trump and their legal teams.


The judge in Donald Trump’s hush money trial ordered the media on Thursday not to report on where potential jurors have worked and to be careful about revealing information about those who will sit in judgment of the former president.

Judge Juan Merchan acted after one juror was dismissed when she expressed concerns about participating in the trial after details about her became publicly known.

The names of the jurors are supposed to be a secret, but the dismissed juror told Merchan she had friends, colleagues and family members contacting her to ask whether she was on the case. “I don’t believe at this point I can be fair and unbiased and let the outside influences not affect my decision-making in the courtroom,” she said.

Merchan then directed journalists present in the courthouse not to report it when potential jurors told the court their specific workplaces, past or present. That put journalists in the difficult position of not reporting something they heard in open court.

Some media organizations were considering whether to protest having that onus placed on them. Generally, the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution bars judges from ordering journalists not to disclose what they hear and see in courtrooms open to the public, though there are exceptions, such as when military security is at stake.

New York criminal defense lawyer Ron Kuby said that while judges typically can’t control what the media reports, other options are available to protect juror anonymity, including restricting what reporters see and hear in the courtroom.

“There are actions the judge could take,” he said. “Courts have extraordinary powers to protect jurors from tampering and intimidation. It is really where a court’s power is at its peak.”

The court action underscored the difficulty of trying to maintain anonymity for jurors in a case that has sparked wide interest and heated opinions, while lawyers need to sift through as much information as possible in a public courtroom to determine who to choose.

Despite the setback, 12 jurors were seated by the end of Thursday for the historic trial. Trump is charged with falsifying his company’s business records to cover up an effort during the 2016 presidential election campaign to squash negative publicity about alleged marital infidelity. Part of the case involves a $130,000 payment made to porn actor Stormy Daniels to prevent her from making public her claims of a sexual meeting with Trump years earlier. Trump has denied the encounter.

New York state law requires trial attorneys to get the names of jurors, but the judge has ordered the lawyers in Trump’s case not to disclose those names publicly. The jurors’ names haven’t been mentioned in court during three days of jury selection.

Still, enough personal information about the jurors was revealed in court that people might be able to identify them anyway.

Some news organizations described details including what Manhattan neighborhoods potential jurors lived in, what they did for a living, what academic degrees they had earned, how many children they had, what countries they grew up in and what their spouses did for a living.

On Fox News Channel Wednesday night, host Jesse Watters did a segment with a jury consultant, revealing details about people who had been seated on the jury and questioning whether some were “stealth liberals” who would be out to convict Trump.


Twenty years ago this month, photos of abused prisoners and smiling U.S. soldiers guarding them at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison were released, shocking the world.

Now, three survivors of Abu Ghraib will finally get their day in U.S. court against the military contractor they hold responsible for their mistreatment.

The trial is scheduled to begin Monday in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, and will be the first time that Abu Ghraib survivors are able to bring their claims of torture to a U.S. jury, said Baher Azmy, a lawyer with the Center for Constitutional Rights representing the plaintiffs.

The defendant in the civil suit, CACI, supplied the interrogators who worked at the prison. The Virginia-based contractor denies any wrongdoing, and has emphasized throughout 16 years of litigation that its employees are not alleged to have inflicted any abuse on any of the plaintiffs in the case.

The plaintiffs, though, seek to hold CACI responsible for setting the conditions that resulted in the torture they endured, citing evidence in government investigations that CACI contractors instructed military police to “soften up” detainees for their interrogations.

Retired Army Gen. Antonio Taguba, who led an investigation into the Abu Ghraib scandal, is among those expected to testify. His inquiry concluded that at least one CACI interrogator should be held accountable for instructing military police to set conditions that amounted to physical abuse.

There is little dispute that the abuse was horrific. The photos released in 2004 showed naked prisoners stacked into pyramids or dragged by leashes. Some photos had a soldier smiling and giving a thumbs up while posing next to a corpse, or detainees being threatened with dogs, or hooded and attached to electrical wires.

The plaintiffs cannot be clearly identified in any of the infamous images, but their descriptions of mistreatment are unnerving. Suhail Al Shimari has described sexual assaults and beatings during his two months at the prison. He was also electrically shocked and dragged around the prison by a rope tied around his neck. Former Al-Jazeera reporter Salah Al-Ejaili said he was subjected to stress positions that caused him to vomit black liquid. He was also deprived of sleep, forced to wear women’s underwear and threatened with dogs.

CACI, though, has said the U.S. military is the institution that bears responsibility for setting the conditions at Abu Ghraib and that its employees weren’t in a position to be giving orders to soldiers. In court papers, lawyers for the contractor group have said the “entire case is nothing more than an attempt to impose liability on CACI PT because its personnel worked in a war zone prison with a climate of activity that reeks of something foul. The law, however, does not recognize guilt by association with Abu Ghraib.”

The case has bounced through the courts since 2008, and CACI has tried roughly 20 times to have it tossed out of court. The U.S. Supreme Court in 2021 ultimately turned back CACI’s appeal efforts and sent the case back to district court for trial.

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