The New York judge who presided over the arraignment of Donald Trump and the judge’s family have reportedly received multiple threats following the historic arrest of the former president.
In court in Manhattan on Tuesday, Trump pleaded not guilty to 34 felony counts related to his hush money payment to the adult film star Stormy Daniels.
NBC was among outlets to report that the judge, Juan Merchan, and his family subsequently received “dozens” of threats.
Citing two sources familiar with the matter, NBC said the threats, like those recently directed towards the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg, and other officials, had come in the form of calls, emails and letters.
In addition to increased security surrounding Merchan and the court, New York police were providing “extra security to all affected staff members”, NBC said. Biographies of employees at Bragg’s office had been removed from the district attorney’s website.
The New York Daily News also reported threats to Merchan and his family, a source telling the paper “the content of the calls, emails and letters was … harassing and defamatory, with most of the trolls calling from out of state”.
Lucian Chalfen, a spokesperson for the New York office of court administration, told the paper: “We continue to evaluate and re-evaluate security concerns and potential threats. We have maintained an increased security presence in and around courthouses and throughout the judiciary and will adjust protocols as necessary.”
Elsewhere, J Michael Luttig, the retired conservative judge and adviser to the former vice-president Mike Pence who came to national prominence with testimony to the House January 6 committee, warned Trump he risked a gag order over his attacks on Judge Merchan.
“There is no court that would want to impose a gag order on a president of the United States,” Luttig told Axios. But “if the former president forces the Manhattan criminal court, the court will have no choice”.
Mike Scotto, a former rackets bureau chief for the Manhattan district attorney, told the same site: “A gag order is used to protect the defendant’s rights to a fair trial and also the government’s rights to a fair trial, so that the potential jurors don’t learn anything about the case that they’re not going to learn in court.”
Luttig is an influential voice in conservative circles, widely deemed unlucky not to have reached the supreme court. He has predicted “the beginning of the end of Donald Trump”.
But the former president enjoys comfortable leads in polling regarding the Republican nomination in 2024 and senior party figures have rallied round him in response to his historic indictment.
Before his arraignment in the New York case, Trump stoked controversy with inflammatory social media posts about the case and Bragg and calls for protest.
On Tuesday, the far-right Georgia congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene led a rally for Trump in a park outside the court in Manhattan.
Inside the court, Merchan warned Trump to “refrain from making statements that are likely to incite violence and civil unrest”. He also told a Trump lawyer: “I don’t share your view that certain language is justified by frustration.”
Hours later, in a speech at his Mar-a-Lago home in Florida, Trump called Merchan “a Trump-hating judge”; attacked the judge’s family (“I have a Trump-hating judge with a Trump-hating wife and family whose daughter worked for Kamala Harris”); and went after Bragg (“a criminal”) and other prosecutors overseeing investigations of his behaviour in the White House and out of power.
Fani Willis, the district attorney of Fulton county, Georgia, is investigating Trump’s election subversion attempts there, with an indictment believed likely.
Trump called her “a local racist Democrat”.
At the US justice department, the special counsel Jack Smith is overseeing investigations of Trump’s election subversion and incitement of the Capitol attack, and of Trump’s retention of classified records.
Trump called him “a radical-left lunatic known as a bomb-thrower”.
The Lincoln Project, a group formed by anti-Trump Republicans, condemned what it called “a paranoid and delusional speech cheered on by fanatical cult members who do not care about democracy and American values”.
“Trump got the circus he wanted,” the group said. “The rest of the GOP has fallen in line.”
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