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Judge In Trump Hush Money Trial Threatens Jail Over Gag Order Violations

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OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.


The judge presiding over Donald Trump’s hush money trial in Manhattan threatened to jail the former president for repeated violations of a very restrictive gag order that does not apply to many of the witnesses in the case.

On Monday, Judge Juan Merchan, a known donor to Democratic candidates, cited new examples of Trump violating the order after he fined the 45th president $9,000 last week for similar violations. “Merchan warned Trump that continued violations of the order could result in incarceration — a threat he made again on Monday after fining him the maximum of $1,000 for the most recent violation,” NBC News reported.

“It appears that the $1,000 fines are not serving as a deterrent,” Merchan said during early proceedings on Monday.

“The last thing I want to do is to put you in jail. 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 you,” he continued, adding that taking that step would be “disruptive to the proceedings.”

However, Merchan warned Trump that “his continued willful violations of this court’s orders threaten the administration of justice and constitute a direct attack on the rule of law. I cannot allow that to continue.”

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Merchan noted that the offending statement was posted to Trump’s Truth Social account and that it must be removed by 2:15 p.m. on Monday.

NBC noted that the order forbids Trump from discussing witnesses or the jury with the intent of influencing them.

“This judge has taken away my constitutional right,” Trump said in the hallway on Friday morning. “We’re filing, I think today, a constitutional motion. He added, “If somebody says something about me and I’m not allowed to respond, that’s never happened before.”

Meanwhile, the attorney who also acts as Trump’s spokeswoman criticized the Democrat-dominated justice system in New York City as “third world” and suggested that Merchan routinely infringes upon Trump’s constitutional rights to a fair trial.

Lawyer Alina Habba specifically addressed the nearly unprecedented gag order on Trump’s business records criminal trial in Manhattan, the first against a former president.

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“The gag orders, the unconstitutionality. I mean, what is more Colombia? Russia? What is more third world?” Habba told Newsmax TV host Carl Higbie. “This is why we have people pouring into our country, running for freedom. And now we’re gonna be like that. You know, we are that. It’s disgusting.”

During a courtroom session last week, Merchan chastised Trump’s attorney, Todd Blanche, as he vigorously defended Trump against the gag order. Blanche contended that Trump’s responses to political attacks shouldn’t warrant punishment, but Merchan rebuked him, stating that he was “losing all credibility” on the matter.

“What happened in court today with the gag order and the anger that you’re seeing from these judges; it’s very concerning for me,” Habba said.

Many have criticized the entire trial, including Fox News analyst and former legal eagle for then-President George W. Bush, who said last week he believes that Trump is turning the trial into “political gold” that is dramatically improving his polling numbers.

John Yoo, a legal scholar and University of California-Berkely law school professor, responded to a post-trial press conference Trump held on Thursday after the day’s proceedings were over during an interview with host Neal Cavuto.

“You know, I agree with President Trump that he’s under an unprecedented, unfair gag order when you take into account the campaign,” Yoo began.

“But as we’ve talked about before, maybe I’m being contrarian here. Even though he’s suffering these legal setbacks, he’s turning it into political gold. As you mentioned, he’s six points ahead of Biden amongst registered voters nationwide. It’s incredible how he sort of performed a judo move on Biden and these prosecutors by turning these attacks into favorable political ratings,” the legal scholar added.

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