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    Thursday, June 13, 2024

    Trump fined $9,000 for gag order violations, held in criminal contempt as N.Y. trial resumes

    Former President Donald Trump walks outside the courtroom of his trial at Manhattan criminal court, Tuesday, April 30, 2024, in New York. (Curtis Means/Pool Photo via AP)

    New York ― Donald Trump was held in criminal contempt for violating a gag order prohibiting him from commenting on participants in his hush-money case and fined $9,000 as his Manhattan trial entered its third week on Tuesday.

    State Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan made the decision moments after taking the bench and after telling Trump he’d let him attend his son Barron’s high school graduation.

    In an accompanying written order, the judge said the nine offending Truth Social posts, which referred to the jury and anticipated witnesses Michael Cohen and Stormy Daniels, had to be taken down by 2:15 p.m. and that further violations could land Trump behind bars.

    The judge didn’t buy Trump’s argument that sharing things others had said didn’t violate the gag order.

    “There can be no doubt whatsoever that Defendant’s intent and purpose when reposting is to communicate to his audience that he endorses and adopts the posted statement as his own,” Merchan wrote.

    “Defendant is hereby warned that the court will not tolerate continued willful violations of its lawful orders and that if necessary and appropriate under the circumstances, it will impose an incarceratory punishment.”

    The decision came in response to prosecutors’ request to punish Trump for what they said were more than a dozen violations of a gag order prohibiting him from commenting on trial participants and additional monetary sanctions. Since that request, they said he’s violated it another four times, which Merchan will consider at a hearing on Thursday.

    Trump walked into court just before 9:30 a.m. wearing his signature red tie and navy blue suit. He was flanked by his legal team and son Eric Trump, who appeared to be the first member of his family to attend the trial.

    By 8 a.m., around two dozen pro-Trump demonstrators had gathered in Collect Pond Park across the street from the courthouse, bearing “Make America Great Again” flags emblazoned with the former president’s face and one reading “Finish the wall.”

    “Our young Republican demographic support is surging, in polls, CNN and Siena, and the Republicans across the state as well. So I think it’s important for people to come out and mobilize and support Trump and support all the Republicans so that we do well this November,” Bobby Walker, vice chair of the New York State Young Republicans, told the Daily News.

    Gary Farro, Michael Cohen’s former banker who was called to the stand late Friday, is expected to delve into the former Trump fixer’s efforts to discreetly pay porn star Stormy Daniels to stay silent about an alleged tryst with Trump on the eve of the 2016 election.

    Cohen pleaded guilty in 2018 to violating campaign finance laws in connection to the Daniels payoff, tax evasion, and lying to Congress about Trump’s business dealing with Russia. He received a three-year term, half of which he served at his Trump Park Ave. apartment.

    Trump, 77, has pleaded not guilty to 34 counts of falsification of business records, alleging he concealed reimbursement to Cohen for paying off Daniels by recording it as payment for legal services.

    Prosecutors say Trump’s payments to his former lawyer, issued in a series of checks throughout his first year in office, capped a yearslong scheme devised at an August 2015 meeting at Trump Tower between then-candidate Trump, Cohen, and former publisher of the National Enquirer David Pecker.

    Jurors last week heard extensive testimony from Pecker over four days. The prosecution’s first witness, who received immunity to testify as he did in Cohen’s federal case, said he agreed to be the Trump campaign’s “eyes and ears” by identifying negative news stories that could come to light — so they could be bought and buried — commissioning flattering ones and elevating hit jobs about his opponents.

    During around 30 minutes of testimony, Trump’s longtime executive assistant Rhona Graff said contact details for Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal were stored in the Trump Organization’s servers and said she once saw Daniels at Trump Tower.

    The former president and presumptive Republican frontrunner in this year’s election denies all allegations and says he’s the victim of a Democrat-led “witch hunt.” Trump has used the court case to raise money for his current White House bid in regular email blasts, predicting his alleged gag order violations will land him in jail.

    Trump’s Manhattan criminal case is among the four he faces as he vies for the presidency again. He’s pleaded not guilty to a host of charges alleging he plotted to subvert the results of the last presidential election and mishandled national defense secrets.

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