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Prosecutors accuse Trump of 'willful' violations of gag order

Published : Tuesday, 23 April, 2024 at 11:11 PM  Count : 392

Prosecutors accuse Trump of 'willful' violations of gag order

Prosecutors accuse Trump of 'willful' violations of gag order

Prosecutors on Tuesday accused Donald Trump of brazenly violating a gag order imposed by the judge presiding over his "hush money" trial to prevent him from intimidating witnesses.

"His attacks on witnesses clearly violate the order," prosecutor Chris Conroy told Judge Juan Merchan at a hearing called to determine whether the former president should be held in contempt of court.
"He knows about the order, he knows what he's not allowed to do, and he does it anyway," Conroy said. "His disobedience of the order is willful, it's intentional."

He urged Merchan to impose a maximum $1,000 fine for each post on Trump's Truth Social platform found to be in violation of the gag order and for the messages to be removed.

"We are not yet seeking an incarceratory penalty," Conroy said, but the court should "remind him that incarceration is an option should it be necessary."

Jailing Trump could potentially set up a conflict with the Secret Service, the federal policing body charged with protecting former and current presidents.

After hearing nearly 90 minutes of arguments from both sides, the judge said he would issue his ruling later.

Trump, 77, is charged with falsifying business records to buy the silence of porn star Stormy Daniels over a 2006 sexual encounter that could have impacted his 2016 presidential bid.

Prosecution witnesses are expected to include Daniels and Trump's former fixer Michael Cohen, who arranged the alleged $130,000 hush money payment to the adult film actress.

Merchan imposed a partial gag order on the Republican presidential candidate on April 1 ordering him not to publicly attack witnesses, jurors and court staff but Trump has repeatedly lashed out.

On Truth Social, Trump called Cohen and Daniels, for example, "two sleaze bags who have, with their lies and misrepresentations, cost our country dearly."

Trump's lawyers have attacked the gag order as a violation of the former president's free speech rights.

- 'Trying to comply' -

Trump's attorney Todd Blanche told Merchan during the contempt hearing that "President Trump 'truths' repeatedly, virtually all the time, seven days a week," but is "trying to comply" with the gag order.

"President Trump is being very careful to comply with your honor's rules," he said.

"There is no dispute that President Trump is facing a barrage of political attacks from all sides including from the two witnesses who are referenced," Blanche said.

He drew the ire of the judge after claiming that Trump's reposting of articles from news sites should not be considered violations of the gag order.

"You're not giving me anything to hang my hat on," Merchan said. "Suppose someone outside has a placard... and it says some horrible, horrible things.

"Is it your position that if your client were to grab that placard and walk around with it... then he has done nothing wrong because he didn't write that poster, that he didn't write that placard, that he is absolved?"

"You're losing all credibility with the court," the judge told Blanche.

The contempt hearing, held without the presence of the jury, came one day after opening arguments in Trump's criminal trial, the first ever of a former US president.

Trump has repeatedly denounced the case as a "witch hunt" intended to keep him off the campaign trail less than seven months before his November election rematch with Democratic President Joe Biden.

David Pecker, the former publisher of the National Enquirer, was the first witness called by the prosecution and he is due back in court on Tuesday after the contempt hearing.


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US   Trump   Election  

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