NEW YORK: Prosecutors on Tuesday accused Donald Trump of brazenly and repeatedly violating a gag order imposed by the judge presiding over his “hush money” trial to prevent him from intimidating witnesses.

Trump, 77, is charged with falsifying business records to buy the silence of porn star Stormy Daniels over a 2006 sexual encounter that could have impacted his 2016 presidential bid.

Judge Juan Merchan interrupted testimony at the first criminal trial of a former president to hold a hearing to determine whether Trump — who is seeking to recapture the White House in November — should be held in contempt of court for violating his gag order.

Prosecutor Chris Conroy told the judge that Trump’s “willful” and “intentional” attacks on witnesses “clearly violate” the gag order and urged him to fine the real estate tycoon $1,000 for each violation.

Former president’s attorney draws judge’s ire over reposting of case-related articles from news sites

“He knows about the order, he knows what he’s not allowed to do, and he does it anyway,” Conroy said. “We are not yet seeking an incarceratory penalty,” Conroy said, but the court should “remind him that incarceration is an option should it be necessary.”

Jailing Trump could potentially set up a conflict with the Secret Service, the body charged with protecting former and current presidents. Merchan, who warned Trump on April 1 not to publicly attack witnesses, jurors, court staff or their relatives, said he would issue his ruling at a later date.

Trump lashed out following the 90-minute contempt hearing, saying the judge was “highly conflicted” and “has taken away my constitutional right to free speech.” “Everybody is allowed to talk and lie about me, but I am not allowed to defend myself,” Trump complained on his Truth Social platform. “This is a kangaroo court, and the judge should recuse himself!”

Election 2024

Prosecution witnesses in the trial are expected to include Daniels and Trump’s former fixer Michael Cohen, who arranged the alleged $130,000 hush money payment to the adult film actress.

Trump has repeatedly attacked Cohen and Daniels on Truth Social, calling them, for example, “two sleaze bags who have, with their lies and misrepresentations, cost our country dearly.” Trump’s attorney Todd Blanche told Merchan during the contempt hearing that “President Trump is being very careful to comply with your honor’s rules.” “There is no dispute that President Trump is facing a barrage of political attacks from all sides including from the two witnesses who are referenced,” Blanche said.

He drew the ire of the judge after claiming that Trump’s reposting of articles from news sites should not be considered violations of the gag order. “You’re losing all credibility with the court,” the judge told Blanche.

The contempt hearing, held without the presence of the jury, came one day after opening arguments in the sensational trial being held in a Manhattan courtroom.

Published in Dawn, April 24th, 2024

Opinion

Editorial

Debt trap
Updated 30 May, 2024

Debt trap

The task before the government is to boost its tax-to-GDP ratio to the global average by taxing the economy’s untaxed and undertaxed sectors.
Foregone times
30 May, 2024

Foregone times

THE past, as they say, is a foreign country. It seems that the PML-N’s leadership has chosen to live there. Nawaz...
Margalla fires
30 May, 2024

Margalla fires

THE Margalla Hills — the sprawling 12,605-hectare national park — were once again engulfed in flames, with 15...
First steps
Updated 29 May, 2024

First steps

One hopes that this small change will pave the way for bigger things.
Rafah inferno
29 May, 2024

Rafah inferno

THE level of barbarity witnessed in Sunday’s Israeli air strike targeting a refugee camp in Rafah is shocking even...
On a whim
29 May, 2024

On a whim

THE sudden declaration of May 28 as a public holiday to observe Youm-i-Takbeer — the anniversary of Pakistan’s...