Judge To Consider Whether Donald Trump Violated Gag Order In Hush Money Trial

Before Donald Trump‘s hush money trial continues this morning, the judge in the case will consider whether the former president has violated a partial gag order.

Judge Juan Merchan’s restrictions prohibit Trump from commenting on expected witnesses, courtroom staff, the jury, members of the prosecution team and the judge’s family. He is holding a hearing before the trial resumes at around 11 a.m. ET.

Trump has savaged his former lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, in posts and re-posts on Trump-owned Truth Social and through articles posted to his campaign web site. He went after Cohen again outside the courtroom after proceedings ended on Monday. “When are they gonna look at all the lies that Cohen did in the last trial?” Trump told reporters, adding, “So he got caught lying — pure lying — and when are they gonna look at that?” 

Cohen, identified by Manhattan prosecutors as a key witness in their case against Trump, paid Stormy Daniels $130,000 in 2016 to stay quiet about her claim of a sexual encounter with the real estate magnate and star of The Apprentice shortly after Melania Trump had given birth to the couple’s son. Cohen pleaded guilty in 2018 to campaign violations tied to the payment and to other charges, and spent more than a year in federal prison. 

In March, a federal judge who rejected Cohen’s bid to shorten his probation suggested that Cohen had lied on the stand, based on his later testimony in still another forum: the New York civil trial against Trump for inflating his wealth.  

Prosecutors in the criminal trial asked for a contempt finding on the first day of jury selection and a $1,000 fine for each of three Trump posts they said violated Judge Merchan’s gag order. They’ve tallied at least seven more disputed posts since then, including a nod to Fox News host Jesse Waters for claiming that “undercover liberal activists” in the jury pool were lying under oath “to get on the Trump Jury.”

A Trump lawyer, Emil Bove, argued that Trump re-posting other case commentary or responding to “political attacks” by Cohen and others in the middle of his presidential campaign does not violate the gag order. 

There was no prohibition on calling Cohen a liar in opening statements on Monday, when Trump lawyer Todd Blanche beat back prosecutor objections and told jurors that Cohen “cannot be trusted” and has admitted to lying in court. 

Ted Johnson contributed to this post.

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