Trump hush money trial: Judge tells former president's lawyer ‘you're losing all credibility’ - Hindustan Times
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Trump hush money trial: Judge tells former president's lawyer ‘you're losing all credibility’

Reuters |
Apr 23, 2024 09:42 PM IST

After the session, Trump quickly went on social media to repeat his claim that the gag order violated his constitutional free speech rights

The judge overseeing Donald Trump's criminal hush money trial on Tuesday told Trump's lawyer he is "losing all credibility" as he considered whether the former president should be punished for violating a gag order that prevents him from publicly criticizing witnesses and others involved in the case.

Former US President Donald Trump, with lawyer Todd Blanche (R), speaks to the press as he arrives at his trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments linked to extramarital affairs, at Manhattan Criminal Court in New York City on April 23, 2024. Trump faces a contempt of court hearing on Tuesday as part of his historic criminal trial, with New York prosecutors insisting the former president repeatedly violated the gag order issued to prevent him from intimidating witnesses. (Photo by TIMOTHY A. CLARY / POOL / AFP)(AFP)
Former US President Donald Trump, with lawyer Todd Blanche (R), speaks to the press as he arrives at his trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments linked to extramarital affairs, at Manhattan Criminal Court in New York City on April 23, 2024. Trump faces a contempt of court hearing on Tuesday as part of his historic criminal trial, with New York prosecutors insisting the former president repeatedly violated the gag order issued to prevent him from intimidating witnesses. (Photo by TIMOTHY A. CLARY / POOL / AFP)(AFP)

Prosecutors asked Justice Juan Merchan to fine Trump $10,000 for violating the order. Defense lawyer Todd Blanche argued that Trump should not be punished for responding to political attacks. Merchan said he would not immediately rule on the prosecution's request.

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At a hearing to consider the issue, Merchan appeared to grow frustrated after Blanche did not provide specific examples of the attacks to which Trump was said to be responding. The judge said Blanche had neither case law nor evidence to back up his argument.

"You've presented nothing," Merchan said. "I've asked you eight or nine times, show me the exact post he was responding to. You've not even been able to do that once."

"Mr. Blanche, you're losing all credibility. I have to tell you right now, you're losing all credibility with the court," the judge added.

After the session, Trump quickly went on social media to repeat his claim that the gag order violated his constitutional free speech rights.

"This is a kangaroo court and the judge should recuse himself!" Trump wrote on his Truth Social platform.

The judge's gag order prevents Trump from publicly criticizing witnesses, court officials and their relatives.

New York prosecutor Christopher Conroy said Trump has run afoul of the order with Truth Social posts, pointing to an April 10 post that called porn star Stormy Daniels and his former lawyer Michael Cohen "sleazebags." Both are expected to testify in the first criminal trial of a former U.S. president.

Conroy said other posts led to media coverage that prompted a juror last week to withdraw over privacy concerns.

"He knows what he's not allowed to do and he does it anyway," Conroy said of Trump. "His disobedience of the order is willful. It's intentional."

The $10,000 fine sought by Conroy would be a relatively small penalty for Trump, who has posted $266.6 million in bonds as he appeals civil judgments in two other cases.

Conroy said he was not at this point asking Merchan to send Trump to jail for up to 30 days, as New York law allows.

"The defendant seems to be angling for that," Conroy said.

Blanche said his posts were responses to political attacks by Cohen and not related to his former lawyer's expected testimony.

"He's allowed to respond to political attacks," Blanche said.

FALSIFYING BUSINESS RECORDS

Trump was charged by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg with falsifying business records to cover up a $130,000 payment shortly before the 2016 U.S. election to buy the silence of Daniels about a sexual encounter she has said they had in 2006. Trump has pleaded not guilty and denies such an encounter took place.

Prosecutors have said it was part of a wider conspiracy to hide unflattering information from voters at a time when he was facing multiple accusations of sexual misbehavior. Trump went on to win the 2016 election narrowly.

In his opening statement on Monday, defense lawyer Todd Blanche said Trump did not commit any crimes. Blanche said Trump acted to protect his family and his reputation and accused Daniels of trying to profit from a false accusation that they had sex.

On Tuesday, jurors heard more testimony from former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker, who prosecutors say participated in a "catch and kill" scheme to suppress unflattering stories about Trump and help him get elected.

Pecker, 72, testified on Monday that his company paid for stories - an unusual practice in journalism.

American Media, which published the National Enquirer, admitted in 2018 that it paid $150,000 to former Playboy magazine model Karen McDougal for her story about a months-long affair with Trump in 2006 and 2007. American Media said it worked "in concert" with Trump's campaign, and it never published a story.

The tabloid reached a similar deal to pay $30,000 to a doorman who was seeking to sell a story about Trump allegedly fathering a child out of wedlock, which turned out to be false, according to prosecutors.

Trump has said the payments were personal and did not violate election law. He has also denied an affair with McDougal.

The case may be the only one of the Republican Trump's four criminal prosecutions to go to trial before his Nov. 5 election rematch with Democratic President Joe Biden.

A guilty verdict would not bar Trump from taking office but it could hurt his candidacy. Reuters/Ipsos polling shows that half of independent voters and one in four Republicans say they would not vote for Trump if he is convicted of a crime.

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.
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