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Trump Trial Judge ‘May Have Already Committed Reversible Error’: Turley

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


Georgetown University law school professor Jonathan Turley believes that the judge presiding over Donald Trump’s hush money trial in Manhattan may have already committed a “reversible error” in the case.

On April 15, 2023, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg obtained an indictment against Trump for 34 felony counts of falsifying business records about hush money payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels and Playboy playmate Karen McDougal.

Trump then reimbursed his former attorney, Michael Cohen, through a series of payments made throughout 2017—totaling $420,000, adding in another expense, a bonus, and money to cover taxes—which prosecutors allege were paid through the Trump Organization and falsely labeled as legal payments.

Turley suggested that New York Judge Juan Merchan might have erred by allowing Bragg’s team of prosecutors, under the direction of former Biden administration official Michael Colangelo—who previously held the position of acting associate attorney general—to assert that Trump was involved in breaking federal election laws.

“I got to tell you, I think this judge may have already committed reversible error,” Turley told “Fox and Friends” co-host Ainsley Earhardt on Tuesday. “He could try to amend it, he could try to change it in his instructions, but that jury has now been told repeatedly that there are federal election crimes here, strongly suggesting that the payment to Stormy Daniels did violate federal election laws. That’s just not true.”

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Turley also previewed testimony from Cohen, who is expected to be a star witness for the prosecution, earlier in the segment.

“Michael Cohen is literally going to tell that jury, ‘Please send my client to jail for following my legal advice,’” Turley said. “All of the stuff that they are talking about, he set up, he structured this and told his client that, ‘we could do this.’”

“It’s a bizarre moment,” Turley added.

WATCH:

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Merchan ruled on Tuesday that Trump must pay $9,000 for nine violations of the gag order against him in his ongoing criminal trial. According to Merchan, Trump has to pay $1,000 for each of the nine infractions for which he was found guilty.

“Prosecutors accused Trump of violating the gag order 10 times after Merchan imposed an order barring the ex-president from making public statements about potential witnesses, jurors, counsel, and others in the case that could interfere with the proceedings—with prosecutors claiming social media posts Trump made about potential witnesses and jurors in the case went against the order,” Forbes reported.

“While violations of the gag order can be punishable by up to 30 days in prison under New York state law, prosecutors only asked Merchan to fine Trump $1,000 per violation for now—the maximum fine allowed under state law—though they also suggested the judge warn future violations could be met with imprisonment,” the outlet added.

During a hearing on the matter last week, Merchan gave indications that he would likely rule against the former president. He did this by getting tense with Todd Blanche, Trump’s attorney, on several occasions when the latter claimed his client hadn’t broken the order. At one point, Merchan even told Blanche he was “losing all credibility with the court.”

“The Gag Order imposed on me, a political candidate running for the highest office in the land, is totally UNCONSTITUTIONAL! Nothing like this has ever happened before,” Trump said on Truth Social Wednesday, ahead of Merchan’s ruling. “The Conflicted Judge’s friends and party members can say whatever they want about me, but I am not allowed to respond.”

The gag order in the hush money case is the third that’s now been imposed on Trump, following restrictions on his speech in the civil fraud case against him and his company and in the ongoing federal criminal case over Trump trying to overturn the 2020 election.

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