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Trump Fined $1000 For 10th Time For Violating Gag Order, Warned Of Jail Term

Justice Juan Merchan, who fined Trump $9,000 for nine social media posts which violated the gag order last week, warned that he would jail Trump if he continued to ignore the court's orders.

NEW YORK: The judge in Donald Trump’s criminal trial fined him $1,000 for the 10th time for violating a gag order on Monday.

The order bars Trump from making public comments about jurors, witnesses and families of the judge and prosecutors. Last week Justice Juan Merchan fined Trump $9,000 for nine social media posts which violated the gag order.

New York law allows fines of up to $1,000 or jail time of up to 30 days for violating a court-imposed gag order. Merchan imposed a $1,000 fine on Monday for an April 22 broadcast interview in which the Republican former president said: “That jury was picked so fast – 95% Democrats. The area’s mostly all Democrat.”

‘Last Resort’

Merchan said he considered jail time “truly the last resort” for many reasons, including the disruption to the trial, political implications of jailing a leading presidential candidate ahead of an election and the extraordinary security challenges of incarcerating an ex-president with a lifetime Secret Service detail.

But Trump’s “continued, wilful” violations of the gag order amounted to a “direct attack on the rule of law,” he said. “I do not want to impose a jail sanction and have done everything I can to avoid doing so. But I will if necessary,” Merchan warned.

Trump’s criminal hush money trial, now in its 12th day, has featured testimony from a top aide and a former tabloid publisher about efforts during his first presidential bid to tamp down stories of unflattering sexual behaviour.

New York prosecutors have charged Trump with falsifying business records to cover up a $130,000 payment to porn star Stormy Daniels, who claims to have had a sexual encounter with him in 2006. Trump has pleaded not guilty and denies ever having sex with Daniels.

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“The judge has gagged me and I’m not allowed to talk about, I guess, his total conflict,” Trump told reporters outside the courtroom. “He’s taken away my constitutional right to speak.”

The trial then resumed with testimony from Jeffrey McConney, a former Trump Organization finance official who testified that Trump was a frugal businessman who negotiated nearly every transaction to the penny.

The main players in the case — including Daniels and Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen, who handled the payment to Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford — are yet to testify.

Last week the 12 jurors and six alternates who will decide Trump’s guilt or innocence heard testimony from Hope Hicks, his former longtime aide who described frantic efforts to respond to stories of alleged affairs and sexual harassment that cropped up in the waning weeks of the 2016 campaign.

Hicks grew emotional as she testified that Trump told her to deny that he had sex with Daniels and wanted to keep his wife Melania from hearing about the allegation. That could help Trump’s defence, which maintains he made the payment to shield his family rather than deceive voters.

The case features sordid allegations of adultery and secret payoffs, but it is widely seen as less consequential than three other criminal prosecutions Trump faces. It is the only one certain to go to trial before the November 5 presidential election.

The other cases charge him with trying to overturn his 2020 presidential defeat and mishandling classified documents after leaving office. Trump has pleaded not guilty to all three.