Judge, Trump’s attorney get into heated exchange over gag order — prosecution’s first witness returns to stand

During the second day of trial this week, Donald Trump’s attorney and the judge had a somewhat heated exchange over the gag order placed against the former president, according to reports.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s prosecutors have accused Trump of violating acting Justice Juan Merchan’s gag order, which prohibits him from making public statements about anyone involved in the trial and their family members.

On Tuesday, the trial began with a hearing on the alleged violations. Prosecutor Chris Conroy pushed Merchan to hold Trump in contempt and order him to pay a $1,000 fine for 10 social media posts that he claimed “pose a very real threat” to the court’s proceedings.

In one of the Truth Social posts, Trump mentions “two sleazebags,” which the prosecution argued is a reference to Trump’s former attorney, Michael Cohen, and porn actress Stormy Daniels.

Conroy claimed that Trump’s comments attacked the witnesses’ “credibility.”

“Going after Michael Cohen is a recurring theme in these posts,” Conroy stated.

The defense maintained that Trump did not violate the gag order and that any comments made were in response to attacks.

Conroy claimed that Trump’s legal team attempted to “muddy the waters.”

“There is no provision in this order for responding to attacks,” he added.

In addition to holding Trump in contempt and imposing fines, prosecutors are asking the judge to order him to remove the 10 posts.

Trump’s attorney, Todd Blanche, reasoned that the social media comments “were in direct response” to statements made by Daniels and Cohen. Blanche and Merchan got into a tense back and forth over whether the posts were political or about the trial.

“President Trump is allowed to respond to political attacks,” Blanche told Merchan.

The judge asked Blanche to pinpoint specific comments made by Cohen and Daniels that Trump was replying to in his social media posts. Blanche responded by stating he was referring to general and repeated remarks, claiming the two witnesses had recently “ramped up their political attacks and their attacks on him as a candidate as well.”

“What I do see is, I keep asking you over and over again for a specific answer, and I’m not getting an answer,” Merchan told Blanche. “I’ve asked you eight or nine times to show me the exact post he was responding to. You’ve been unable to do that even once.”

At one point, Merchan told Blanche he was “losing all credibility with the court.”

Blanche stated that Trump is “being very careful to comply” with the judge’s gag order.

After a break, the trial continued by welcoming the prosecution’s first witness, David Pecker, back to the stand. Pecker, the former publisher at National Enquirer, claimed he was part of a “catch and kill” scheme with Cohen to purchase the rights to unfavorable stories about Trump and never publish them.

“If there was any rumors in the marketplace about Mr. Trump or his family or any negative stories that were coming out or things that I heard overall that I would go through, I would call Michael Cohen directly,” Pecker testified.

Pecker claimed he was asked by Trump and Cohen what the National Enquirer could do to help the 2016 presidential campaign.

“What I would do is I would run or publish positive stories about Mr. Trump, and I would publish negative stories about his opponents, and I said that I would also … be eyes and ears. I said I would be your eyes and ears,” he stated.

Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass asked Pecker whether purchasing the rights to stories that the media outlet never ended up publishing was helpful to the National Enquirer; he replied, “No.”

He claimed there was no written agreement with Trump about the alleged arrangement because “it was just an agreement among friends.”

One of the stories Pecker purchased was from a former Trump Tower doorman, who claimed Trump had fathered a child out of wedlock. Pecker gave the man $30,000 for the exclusive rights to the story despite Cohen telling him the rumor was “absolutely not true,” according to Pecker’s testimony.

If the story turned out to be accurate, Pecker said he had plans to publish it after the election, claiming it would have “been very embarrassing to the campaign.”

Pecker said he discovered that the story “was absolutely 1,000% untrue.”

During an interview on Real America’s Voice on Monday evening, Trump stated, “That jury was picked so fast, 95% Democrats, the area’s all, mostly all Democrats. You think of it as a, just a purely Democrat area. It’s a very unfair situation.”

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