Judge threatens to jail Trump for violating gag order in hush money trial

Judge Merchan strongly suggested any additional violations would result in jail time.
Trump Hush Money
Posted at 9:04 AM, May 06, 2024

Judge Juan Merchan threatened to put Former President Donald Trump in jail as the judge said that Trump continually violates the court's gag order limiting what the former president can say about his New York hush money case outside of the courtroom.

In comments to reporters after court was adjourned, Trump acknowledged the gag order in place against him and suggested he was willing to face potential jail time over repeated violations.

“And frankly, you know what? Our Constitution is much more important than jail,” he said. “It’s not even close. I’ll do that sacrifice any day.”

He also repeated claims that the trial was meant to keep him from campaigning for president.

During the hearing Monday, jurors learned about the payments and reimbursements that are central to the hush money case against Donald Trump.

Former Trump Organization controller Jeffrey McConney gave testimony about the plan to reimburse Michael Cohen for the $130,000 payment he made to Keith Davidson, who was at the time a lawyer for porn actor Stormy Daniels.

McConney explained how payments were entered into the organization's ledger and coded as payments to a lawyer.

Jurors also saw the checks in question, some of which bore Donald Trump's signature.

Prosecutors are ahead of schedule on the 12th day of the trial, saying they will be done calling witnesses in roughly two weeks' time. When they have finished, the defense will take its turn.

Trump repeatedly violates gag orders

On April 30, Merchan ordered Trump to pay nine $1,000 fines for multiple social media posts about the case. Merchan had warned Trump that he could be jailed if he committed further violations of the gag order.

Merchan then decided on Monday to add a 10th gag order violation. Because the violation occurred before April 30, Merchan said he would not jail Trump. But he strongly suggested any additional violations would result in jail time.

"It appears the $1,000 fines are not serving as a deterrent. Moving forward, the court will consider a jail sanction," Merchan said on Monday. "The last thing I want to do is put you in jail. You are the former president and potentially the next president.

"To take that step would be disruptive to the proceedings. I also worry about the people who would have to execute that sanction. The court officers, the Secret Service … I worry about them. I am also aware and concerned about the impact of imposing the jail sentence. I have a job to do. Your continued violation threatens the rule of law. It’s a direct attack on the rule of law. I will if necessary and appropriate."

Prosecutors said Trump violated the gag order by posting disparaging comments involving potential witnesses Michael Cohen, who served as a former attorney for Trump, and Stormy Daniels. Prosecutors also said Trump tried to influence the jury after reposting remarks on April 17 from Fox News' Jesse Waters that said, "They're catching undercover liberal activists lying to the judge in order to get on the Trump jury.” Merchan noted that the following day, a juror asked to be dismissed.

In defense of Trump's comments, attorney Todd Blanche said, “Trump 'truths' repeatedly, all day, virtually seven days a week.”

Trump faces 34 felony counts for falsifying business records in an alleged scheme to influence the 2016 presidential election.