Donald Trump free to criticise Stormy Daniels in TV debate

Donald Trump will debate Joe Biden on US TV on Thursday
Donald Trump will debate Joe Biden on US TV on Thursday - REUTERS/Chery Dieu-Nalio

Donald Trump is free to criticise Stormy Daniels and other witnesses in his “hush money” trial at the presidential TV debate after a judge partially lifted the gag order in the case.

The Republican candidate is expected to use his appearance at the event in Atlanta on Thursday to repeat his argument that he has been unfairly targeted in the courts by Democrats.

But until now, he has been forbidden by a New York judge from making any comments about the witnesses in the case, in which he was found guilty of 34 counts of falsifying business records last month.

Justice Juan Merchan said on Tuesday that Trump was now free to comment on witnesses in the case, which included Ms Daniels, an adult film star with whom he allegedly had sexual relations in the 2000s.

Trump was accused of buying her silence with so-called “hush money” and illegally covering his tracks by failing to disclose the purpose of payments in his records.

He denies the sexual encounter and has vowed to appeal his conviction. He is due to be sentenced July 11 – four days before the Republican convention that will nominate him as the party’s candidate.

Mr Merchan’s revised order allows Trump to speak publicly about witnesses in the case and relaxes another rule on commenting about the jury, but keeps in place restrictions on his statements about individual prosecutors and others involved in the case.

A gag order on discussing Stormy Daniels has been lifted for Donald Trump
A gag order on discussing Stormy Daniels has been lifted for Donald Trump - Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Trump’s lawyers argued the gag order was stifling his campaign speeches and said it might limit his ability to respond to attacks from Mr Biden during the debate.

“There is ample evidence to justify continued concern for the jurors,” Mr Merchan wrote.

“Until a sentence is imposed, all individuals covered… must continue to perform their lawful duties free from threats, intimidation, harassment and harm,” he added.

The Trump campaign saw a major boost in donations after his conviction on May 30, and has since used the court cases against him as evidence that he is the victim of a political conspiracy.

Three more cases against him, for alleged election interference and mishandling classified documents, are pending in Washington, Atlanta and Miami.

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