NEW YORK — Donald Trump’s decision to ignore a request from the judge overseeing his Manhattan “hush money” case to tone down ramped-up rhetoric against New York authorities was condemned as “despicable” Wednesday — and unbecoming of a mafia chief, never mind a former president.
“You do not have this behavior from a mob boss. There is a rule in organized crime. You do not do this with respect to prosecutors. You don’t do this with respect to the judge. You certainly don’t go after their families. It’s bad business to do that,” former federal prosecutor Andrew Weissman said on MSNBC.
“There’s no level to which he is not stooping,” Weissman said, describing Trump’s comments as “despicable.”
Trump wasted no time ignoring a request from Judge Juan Merchan to tone down threats against authorities involved in his criminal case, with the former president singling out the jurist and his family members in fervid remarks after returning to his Florida home.
Addressing the media at a press conference at Mar-a-Lago, the ex-president referred to the well-respected Judge Juan Merchan as a “Trump hating judge” and invoked his daughter, alleging she was involved in a Democrat conspiracy.
“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,” he said.
Prompting further criticism was an online post by Trump’s son, Don Jr., featuring an article with a photo of Merchan and his daughter.
“Seems relevant … yet another connection in this hand picked democrat show trial. The BS never ends folks. Daughter of Judge on Trump Case Worked on Biden-Harris Campaign,” Don Jr. wrote on Twitter.
At his Supreme Court arraignment Tuesday — which marked the first time in history a U.S. president, past or present, has faced charges — prosecutors presented Merchan with a series of provocative postings Trump has made in recent weeks in anticipation of his indictment.
“This defendant has made a series of threatening and escalating communications on social media and on other public remarks. This includes irresponsible social media posts that target various individuals involved in this matter, and even their families,” Assistant District Attorney Chris Conroy said.
“His public statements have, among other things, threatened potential death and destruction, and that is a quote, and World War III, another quote, if these charges were brought and he was indicted. They have directly addressed the grand jury and disparaged witnesses who have purportedly participated in our investigation.”
Citing “significant concern” about the potential dangers of Trump’s inflammatory remarks, Conroy asked the judge to issue a protective order that would prohibit him from disseminating evidence online.
Trump’s lawyers, in response, argued that Trump had a free-speech right to express his frustration over the case.
Merchan said he didn’t agree with that interpretation, but noted he wouldn’t issue a gag order even if he was asked. He instead asked Trump’s lawyers to appeal to their client to ensure the public’s safety.
“[Although] I’m not going to issue a gag order and not something close to a gag order, I would encourage counsel on both sides … to please speak to your witnesses,” Merchan said in court.
“Defense counsel, speak to your client and anybody else you need to, and remind them to please refrain — please refrain — from making statements that are likely to incite violence or civil unrest,” Merchan added.
But within hours of touching down in Florida, Trump instead turned up the dial, taking aim at Merchan and at DA Alvin Bragg, who he has subjected to an onslaught of abuse online since January.
“We do not comment on criminal matters during the pendency of the case,” State Office of Court Administration spokesman Lucian Chalfen said.
Trump, 76, pleaded not guilty Tuesday to 34 felony counts of falsifying business records, which prosecutors said were part of a scheme to conceal damaging information during his 2016 campaign that included paying off porn star Stormy Daniels and a Playboy model to keep quiet about alleged sexual trysts. The charges carry a potential four-year sentence.
Calls to Trump’s lawyers on the case were not immediately returned.