Trump faces contempt charges for alleged gag order violations in hush money trial

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24th April 2024 – (New York) Former U.S. President Donald Trump is facing contempt charges for allegedly breaching a judicial gag order during his hush money trial. During a session at the Manhattan Criminal Court, prosecutor Christopher Conroy accused Trump of making unsanctioned public comments against key witnesses through his posts on the social media platform, Truth Social.

According to Conroy, Trump’s actions, including derogatory remarks about adult film actress Stormy Daniels and his former attorney Michael Cohen, have potentially prejudiced the trial’s integrity. These comments could influence the testimony of Daniels and Cohen, both central figures in the first criminal trial of a former U.S. president. Conroy highlighted an instance from April 10, where Trump referred to the two as “sleazebags,” exacerbating media scrutiny that recently led to a juror’s withdrawal citing privacy concerns.

The prosecutor stressed that Trump’s repeated defiance of the court order was deliberate and proposed a $10,000 fine as a penalty. This sum is minor compared to the $266.6 million in bonds Trump posted while appealing civil judgments in related cases. Although New York laws could allow for a jail term of up to 30 days for contempt, Conroy did not pursue imprisonment at this stage.

During the proceedings, Trump’s lawyer, Todd Blanche, defended the former president’s social media activity, arguing that his client was merely responding to political attacks and that his posts were unrelated to the expected testimony of his former lawyer. However, Justice Juan Merchan expressed scepticism about this defence, pressing Blanche for specific examples of the alleged attacks, which were not substantiated to the court’s satisfaction.

The trial, which centres around accusations that Trump falsified business records to conceal a $130,000 payment to Daniels ahead of the 2016 U.S. election, has broader implications. This alleged cover-up was part of what prosecutors describe as a larger scheme to shield unflattering stories from the electorate during a campaign marred by accusations of sexual misconduct. Trump has pleaded not guilty to the charges and has consistently denied the encounters claimed by Daniels and another accuser, Karen McDougal.