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Prosecutors Want Trump Fined $3,000 For Violating Judge Merchan’s Gag Order

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Updated Apr 15, 2024, 02:29pm EDT

Topline

Prosecutors argued Monday at former President Donald Trump’s criminal trial that the ex-president violated his gag order and should be fined, asking Judge Juan Merchan to hold Trump in contempt after he criticized potential witnesses in the criminal case.

Key Facts

Merchan imposed a gag order on Trump in March that bars him from making public statements about potential witnesses, court staff or counsel, expanding it in April to also include their family members or family members of the court, after Trump started going after Merchan’s daughter.

Prosecutors from the Manhattan district attorney’s office, which brought the case, said Monday they will ask the court to hold Trump in contempt after he posted on social media about potential witnesses in the case.

They pointed to three social media posts, including Trump calling ex-attorney Michael Cohen a “disgraced attorney and felon” on Saturday and referring to Cohen and adult film star Stormy Daniels as “sleaze bags” in a Thursday Truth Social post, and suggested Trump may have attacked Cohen again Monday morning, marking a fourth violation.

Prosecutors asked Merchan to fine Trump $3,000 in total—$1,000 for each of the three alleged violations—and warn Trump that future violations of the order could result in him being jailed.

Trump’s lawyers said at the trial Monday they will soon file a motion that opposes Trump being held in contempt, arguing the ex-president was “responding to salacious, repeated, vehement attacks by these witnesses” and his comments do not violate the gag order, according to ABC News.

Trump has not yet responded to the effort to hold him in contempt and his spokesperson Steven Cheung hasn’t responded to a request for comment, but the ex-president previously claimed it would be a “great honor” to go to jail for violating the gag order.

What To Watch For

Merchan scheduled a hearing on Trump allegedly violating the gag order for April 23. Jury selection in the trial will begin Monday and it’s unclear how long it will last, and once opening arguments begin, the trial is expected to last approximately six weeks. Trump faces the threat of prison if he’s convicted of any of the 34 counts against him, though legal experts believe it’s unlikely he’d be sentenced to prison as a first-time offender.

Surprising Fact

After prosecutors asked the court to sanction him Monday, Trump posted a video on Truth Social that could run afoul of the gag order, as it features right-wing activist Laura Loomer criticizing Merchan’s wife and Michael Cohen, arguing Cohen’s lawyer is biased against Trump.

Tangent

The hush money case is one of three cases where gag orders have been brought against Trump. New York Judge Arthur Engoron also imposed a gag order during last year’s civil fraud trial against the ex-president and his company, which ultimately resulted in Trump paying $15,000 in fines for violating the order. A gag order has also been imposed in Trump’s federal criminal case for trying to overturn the 2020 election, which an appeals court largely upheld in December. The order bars Trump from making statements about witnesses “concerning their potential participation in the investigation or in this criminal proceeding,” and prohibits public statements about court staff, counsel in the case or their families if they’re “made with the intent to materially interfere” with the case.

Key Background

Trump was charged in March 2023 with 34 counts of falsifying business records, based on a $130,000 payment Cohen made to Daniels right before the 2016 election to silence her allegations of an affair with Trump. Trump then reimbursed Cohen $420,000—including the Daniels payment, a separate expense, a $60,000 bonus and enough to cover his taxes—through a series of incremental payments made throughout 2017, which prosecutors allege were made through the Trump Organization and falsely concealed as being for legal payments. Trump has pleaded not guilty to the charges against him, and his attorneys have claimed the reimbursement checks were personal expenses that didn’t involve the Trump Organization.

Further Reading

ForbesTrump Gag Orders: Here's Everything The Ex-President Can't Say In The Cases Against Him-As Hush Money Judge Expands Restrictions

ForbesTrump Lashes Out At Key Witness In Hush Money Case-Despite Gag Order

ForbesTrump Says Being Jailed Over Violating Gag Order Would Be 'Great Honor'
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