“Very troubling”: Federal judge makes “extraordinary” move to reveal the truth about Trump’s threats

“Judge Walton feels a sense of urgency” after Trump's attacks led to a rise in threats to his own family

By Sophia Tesfaye

Senior Politics Editor

Published March 29, 2024 10:16AM (EDT)

U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

In what legal experts are calling an "extraordinary" move, a sitting federal judge spoke out against Donald Trump's dayslong attack on the child of a judge overseeing one of his criminal trials. 

"I think it’s important that as judges, we speak out, and say things, and reference to things that conceivably are going to impact on the process. Because if we don’t have a viable court system, that’s able to function efficiently, then we have tyranny,” federal Judge Reggie Walton said to CNN's Kaitlan Collins in a rare interview Thursday. 

Trump has lashed out at the daughter of Judge Juan Merchan, who is presiding over Trump's criminal trial relating to hush money payments and election interference. The former president took to his Truth Social account to attack the judge's daughter.

“Judge Juan Merchan is totally compromised, and should be removed from this TRUMP Non-Case immediately,” Trump wrote on Thursday. His daughter, the former president said, is “a Rabid Trump Hater” who works for Democrats. The day before, he falsely cited social media posts that were not hers to claim she and her father are out to get him.

As former federal prosecutor Joyce Vance notes, an earlier gag order imposed by the judge on Trump ahead of the start of the April trial does not include mentions of the judge or his family.

And, as Vance notes, it is indeed "extraordinary" for a sitting federal judge like Walton to speak out in this manner. 

“But nonetheless, it is very troubling, because I think it is an attack, on the rule of law, when judges are threatened, and particularly when their family is threatened,” Walton, who was first appointed to the federal bench by then-President George W. Bush, said. “And it’s something that’s wrong, and should not happen.”

The judge said that he and his family have seen an increase in violent threats since Trump's rise. 

“Yes, I’ve had more threats than what used to be the case. Yes, I have received a greater number of threats, as a result of that incident, and the fact that cases arising out of that incident have appeared before me,” Walton said. “I mean, it was rare. I’ve been a judge for over 40 years. And this is a new phenomenon. I’m not saying that it didn’t happen before. But it was very rare that I would you ever receive any type of a threat, regardless of what type of cases I was handling. And unfortunately, that is no longer the case.”

“I know the Marshals Service has seen a significant increase, in the number of threats against judges. And I think obviously, that’s very — very concerning,” he added.

Watch the full interview below, via CNN:

By Sophia Tesfaye

Sophia Tesfaye is Salon's senior editor for news and politics, and resides in Washington, D.C. You can find her on Twitter at @SophiaTesfaye.

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