Most people who’ve just been indicted and are facing a litany of other legal battles would keep a low profile. But Donald Trump isn’t most people. After pleading not guilty to 34 felony counts, Trump flew to Mar-a-Lago to deliver a rant against the Manhattan District Attorney, Democrats, the judge in this case, and the judge’s family.
Typically, attacking the judge presiding over your case is a no-go since who wants to piss off the person with your fate in their hands? But naturally, that didn’t stop the former-President. “I have a Trump-hating judge with a Trump-hating wife and family whose daughter worked for Kamala Harris,” said Trump at his rally. Even before this rally, Trump attacked Bragg calling the first Black Manhattan DA, a reverse racist and claiming that “death and destruction” would follow if the grand jury indicted him.
Aside from the blatant misinformation, it begs the question, what is Trump’s end-game here? There’s the obvious strategy of drumming up his base. But could there be a secondary motive at play?
Former San Francisco Prosecutor Paul Henderson has a theory. “I believe that he did that to try to get a gag order. He wants to not talk about it,” says Henderson.
For those who don’t know, a “gag order” is a legal order issued by a judge that makes it so a case can not be discussed publicly. And although we hate to give Trump’s ranting too much credit, in this instance, Henderson’s theory could hold some water.
The facts of this case don’t look good for Trump, and he knows it, says Henderson. So the fewer people who are allowed to talk about the facts this close to the Republican primary, the better for Trump.
“I’m hoping that we continue with restrictions that allow the public to understand and know what’s happening,” says Henderson, who served as a prosecutor under Kamala Harris. “Because we know Donald Trump’s allies will interpret that in a way that’s not tethered to the truth about what’s happening. And no one will be allowed to defend themselves if there’s a gag order.”
On Tuesday, Justice Juan M. Merchan came close to issuing a gag order, says Henderson, adding, “The judge is loathed to do it because the judge wants people to have transparency in the system,” he says. (There are also some legal concerns about effectively muzzling a presidential candidate).
That doesn’t mean the threats made by Trump against Bragg and others aren’t serious, he says. “I think the threats are real, and they bother me,” says Henderson, “in particular, because you’re targeting not just the DA. Trump has specifically talked about the judge and his wife.”
Time will tell if the judge decides he’s had enough of Trump’s incessant ranting, but sadly that might be precisely what Trump wants.