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Judge Tells Trump Lawyer in N.Y. Criminal Trial He Is 'Losing All Credibility'

Judge Tells Trump Lawyer in N.Y. Criminal Trial He Is 'Losing All Credibility'
Lawyer Todd Blanche, left, sits in a Manhattan courtroom  Tuesday with former President Donald Trump. (Brendan Mcdermid/Pool via Getty Images)

Tuesday, 23 April 2024 02:11 PM EDT

The judge overseeing Donald Trump's New York criminal trial told Trump's lawyer Tuesday 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.

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.

At a hearing to consider the issue, Merchan appeared to grow frustrated when 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.

In his opening statement Monday, 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, former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker testified that he used his supermarket tabloid to suppress stories that might have hurt Trump's 2016 presidential bid.

Pecker, 72, testified that the Enquirer bought a story peddled by a Trump Tower doorman, Dino Sajudin, who claimed Trump fathered a child with a maid who worked for him. Later, they learned the story was not true.

Prosecutors displayed a memo showing that the Enquirer's parent company, American Media, paid $30,000 for the story — far more than the company typically paid.

“I made the decision to buy the story because of the potential embarrassment it would have to the campaign and Mr. Trump,” Pecker said.

Pecker said the decision followed a 2015 meeting at which he told Trump the Enquirer would publish favorable stories about the billionaire candidate and keep an eye out for people selling stories that might hurt him.

“When someone’s running for public office like this, it is very common for these women to call up a magazine like the National Enquirer to try to sell their stories," Pecker testified.

Pecker said he told an editor to keep the arrangement secret.

Prosecutors say Pecker's actions helped Trump deceive voters in the 2016 election by burying stories of alleged extramarital affairs at a time when he already faced multiple accusations of sexual misbehavior.

They have charged Trump with criminally falsifying business records to cover up a $130,000 payment to buy the silence of porn star Stormy Daniels, who says they had a sexual encounter 10 years earlier.

Trump has pleaded not guilty and denies having an encounter with Daniels. His lawyers argue that Trump did not commit any crimes and only acted to protect his reputation.

 

© 2024 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.


Politics
The judge overseeing Donald Trump's New York criminal trial told Trump's lawyer Tuesday 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...
trump, new york, criminal, trial
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2024-11-23
Tuesday, 23 April 2024 02:11 PM
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