Donald Trump Faces Possible Jail Time for Gag Order Violation in Manhattan Case

Former President Donald Trump was smacked down by Judge Juan Merchan Monday morning for violating the court’s gag order, and ordered to pay a $1,000 fine and even hinted at possible jail time. Judge Merchan warned Trump that any further violations of the gag order would result in Trump being ordered into custody.

Monday’s fine and warning marked the second time since the trial began that Trump has been fined for violating the court’s gag order, which prohibits Trump from making disparaging comments and or incendiary remarks about any juror, witness, or anyone who is closely connected to the case. Trump was fined $9,000 last week for nine individual violations of the order. This most recent violation stems from an April 22nd interview in which Trump criticized the speed or pace of how the jurors were picked and made claims that the jury was comprised mainly of Democrats. 

“It appears that the $1,000 fines are not serving as a deterrent. Therefore going forward, this court will have to consider a jail sanction,” Judge Juan Merchan said. Trump’s statements, the judge continued, “threaten to interfere with the fair administration of justice and constitute a direct attack on the rule of law. I cannot allow that to continue.”

However, Judge Merchan has reservations about sending Trump to jail for violating the gag order. Saying that it was “the last thing he wanted to do.”

“You are the former president of the United States and possibly the next president as well. There are many reasons why incarceration is truly a last resort for me. To take that step would be disruptive to these proceedings,” Merchan said.

After dealing with the gag order business, testimony resumed Monday with prosecutors probing Trump’s circle following an inside-the-room account about Trump’s reaction to what political insiders view as a politically damaging recording that surfaced in the final weeks of his 2016 presidential campaign.

Former White House official and Trump aid, Hope Hicks, was on the stand last Friday in what the prosecutors were hoping would paint a picture of chaos and fervor as a leaked audio recording of Trump from 2005 talking about grabbing women by their genitals without their permission went public, along with the so-called “hush money” payments that Trump allegedly paid to a pornstar and Playboy model ahead of the 2016 election.

“I had a good sense to believe this was going to be a massive story and that it was going to dominate the news cycle for the next several days,” Hicks said of the “Access Hollywood” recording, first revealed in an October 2016 Washington Post story. “This was a damaging development.”

Trump faces 34 felony counts of falsifying business records concerning payments ostensibly made to stifle potentially politically damaging stories. Prosecutors alleged that the Trump Organization reimbursed Trump’s former attorney Micheal Cohen for payments to porn actress Stormy Daniels, as well as giving Cohen bonuses and extra payments. Prosecutors further allege those transactions were falsely documented in company records as legal expenses. Trump has denied any sexual encounter with either Daniels (or former Playboy model Karen McDougal, who also signed a non-disclosure agreement) and has pleaded not guilty to the charges. 

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