Judge holds Trump in contempt, claims he violated gag order

On Tuesday morning, acting Justice Juan Merchan held Donald Trump in contempt, claiming he violated his gag order by sharing posts on social media, according to live updates from the courtroom. Trump faces fines of $1,000 for each violation.

Merchan previously placed a gag order on the former president, prohibiting him from making public comments about anyone involved in the trial and their family members. Prior to going to trial, Trump’s legal team made multiple attempts to overturn the restrictive order; all attempts were denied.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg (D) accused Trump of violating the order, referring to 10 social media posts published on Truth Social. In one of the posts, Trump mentions “two sleazebags,” which the prosecution argued referred to former Trump attorney Michael Cohen and porn actress Stormy Daniels. Both are expected to testify against Trump in the New York criminal trial.

In a court filing last week, Bragg urged the judge to remind Trump that he could face jail time for violating the gag order. Bragg also requested that the former president be held in contempt and forced to pay $1,000 per post.

During last Tuesday’s trial, prosecutor Chris Conroy claimed that the social media posts “pose[d] a very real threat” to the court’s proceedings by allegedly attacking the witness’ “credibility.”

Merchan and Todd Blanche, Trump’s lawyer, got into a somewhat heated exchange over whether Trump violated the order.

Blanche contended that Trump’s posts had nothing to do with the case and were responses to political attacks from Cohen and Daniels. Trump and his legal team have repeatedly mentioned that neither witness has been prohibited from making disparaging comments about Trump, the case against him, or his political campaign.

“President Trump is allowed to respond to political attacks,” Blanche told Merchan last week.

Merchan demanded Blanche provide specific examples of comments made by Cohen and Daniels that Trump was replying to in his social media posts. Blanche responded to the request by stating the two had made repeated remarks and had recently “ramped up their political attacks and their attacks on him as a candidate as well.”

The judge was reportedly unsatisfied with Blanche’s reply and asked for precise examples again.

“What I do see is I keep asking you over and over again for a specific answer, and I’m not getting an answer,” Merchan told Blanche. “I’ve asked you eight or nine times to show me the exact post he was responding to. You’ve been unable to do that even once.”

Merchan warned Blanche that he was “losing all credibility with the court.”

Blanche maintained that Trump is “being very careful to comply” with Merchan’s order.

Last week, Trump posted on Truth Social, “We have a Rigged Judge, who is working for the Democrat Party and refuses to terminate this ‘case,’ which should have never been brought by Soft on Crime Alvin Bragg. Judge Merchan should [be] immediately removed, and the Appellate Courts have to take over.”

The trial continued Thursday morning, with the prosecution claiming that Trump violated the gag order several more times over the past few days. During a news interview earlier in the week, Trump stated that the jury pool consisted of 95% Democrats. According to the prosecution, these comments also violated the judge’s order.

Additionally, Trump referred to witness and former tabloid publisher David Pecker as “nice” on Thursday morning.

Conroy argued, “This is a message to Pecker. Be nice. It’s a message to others.”

On Tuesday, the judge decided to side with the prosecution, declaring that Trump violated his gag order in multiple instances presented. As a result of Merchan’s latest ruling, Trump will have to pay $1,000 each for nine violations. He was also ordered to remove the “offending posts” from Truth Social, as well as two “offending posts” from his campaign website.

“THEREFORE, Defendant is hereby warned that the Court will not tolerate continued willful violations of its lawful orders and that if necessary and appropriate under the circumstances, it will impose an incarceratory punishment,” Merchan’s order read.

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