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Judge Rejects Trump Lawyer’s Gag Order Defense: “You’re Losing All Credibility”

Prosecutors seek a $1,000 fine for each of the 10 times Trump has seemingly violated the court-imposed gag order.

Former President Donald Trump, with lawyer Todd Blanche at his side, appears in court at Manhattan Criminal Court on April 23, 2024 in New York City.

New York Justice Juan Merchan, the judge overseeing Donald Trump’s hush money trial, has so far refused to issue a formal decision over whether Trump violated a gag order in the case, although he chastised Trump’s lawyers on Tuesday for claiming their client was trying to follow the rules imposed on him.

Trump has been charged with 34 counts relating to covering up hush money payments to women he allegedly had affairs with, using his business expenses as a cover to conceal the payments during the 2016 presidential campaign. After Trump released numerous false and threatening statements on social media regarding people involved in the case, a gag order was issued against him in March, specifically forbidding him from making comments that could interfere with the case, including statements regarding potential witnesses, prosecutors’ families, court staff and their family members.

Trump has claimed at various points that the gag order is a violation of his First Amendment speech rights. However, such orders are not uncommon, especially in instances where individuals could potentially alter the outcome of a trial due to their intimidation of witnesses or other involved actors.

The Manhattan District Attorney’s office has alleged that Trump violated the gag order no less than 10 times since it was issued. During Tuesday’s hearing on the matter, prosecutors sought to have Trump fined $1,000 for each violation, and for Merchan to remind him that he could be punished with a short jail sentence if he’s found in contempt again in the future.

Prosecutor Christopher Conroy said that Trump violated the order “willfully and flagrantly” multiple times.

“Defendant has violated this order repeatedly and hasn’t stopped,” Conroy added.

Despite ample evidence that Trump was violating the gag order, including the former president’s social media posts, Trump’s lawyer, Todd Blanche, claimed his client was merely responding to his critics, and that his blistering attacks were simply “political” statements.

“He’s allowed to respond to political attacks, Your Honor,” Blanche said to Merchan.

But the judge appeared unwilling to accept that argument — and when Blanche claimed that Trump was trying to follow the gag order, Merchan lashed out at him.

“You’re losing all credibility, I have to tell you right now. You’re losing all credibility with the court,” Merchan said.

As of Wednesday morning, Merchan has not ruled on the issue of Trump’s gag order violations. A formal ruling on the matter could come any moment this week, and based on the evidence presented (and Merchan’s reaction to the defense’s arguments), the outcome doesn’t look good for the former president, the first in U.S. history to face a criminal trial after leaving office.

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