BREAKING: Judge Merchan Fines Trump Again, Threatens Him With Jail Time

News & Politics

Judge Juan Merchan, the Biden-donor judge presiding over Donald Trump’s criminal trial in New York City, announced on Monday his intention to once again hold Trump in contempt of court for the tenth time for exercising his First Amendment rights by violating his gag order.

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Merchan also expressed his willingness to consider imprisonment for future infractions because the fines have done little to stop Trump from speaking publicly in his defense about the case.

Merchan cited four statements by Trump that violated the gag order and fined him $1,000 for each statement. In the first statement, made on April 22, Trump said, “And when are they going to look at all the lies that Cohen did in the last trial? He got caught lying in the last trial. So he got caught lying, pure lying. And when are they going to look at that?”

The next statement Merchan cited was from the same day when Trump accused the judge of “rushing the trial like crazy,” and pointing out that “That jury was picked so fast — 95% Democrats. The area’s mostly all Democrat. You think of it as a — just a purely democratic area. It’s a very unfair situation that I can tell you.”

The final statement was about Michael Cohen, in which Trump pointed out that Cohen is “a convicted liar and he’s got no credibility whatsoever.”

Nothing Trump said appears to be untrue.

“Because this is now the 10th time that this Court has found Defendant in criminal contempt, spanning three separate motions, it is apparent that monetary fines have not and will not suffice to deter Defendant from violating this Court’s lawful orders,” Merchan said in his written order.

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Reuters has more.

Merchan said jail time would be a last resort and one that he was trying to avoid at all costs. But he said Trump’s “continued, wilful” violations of the gag order amounted to a “direct attack on the rule of law.”

“I do not want to impose a jail sanction and have done everything I can to avoid doing so. But I will if necessary,” Merchan said from the bench in the absence of the jury.

Merchan said he considered jail time a “truly the last resort” for many reasons, including the disruption to the trial, political implications of jailing a leading presidential candidate ahead of an election and the extraordinary security challenges of incarcerating an ex-president with a lifetime Secret Service detail. 

Merchan had previously fined Trump $9,000 for nine social media posts that he ruled had violated the gag order.

Merchan spoke as Trump sat at the defendant’s table in the New York courtroom in the first criminal trial of a former U.S. president.

Last week, during an appearance on “Fox & Friends,” GWU law professor Jonathan Turley told Fox News that Merchan made a mistake by allowing Bragg’s prosecutorial team, which former Biden administration official Michael Colangelo is leading, to say unequivocally that Trump was involved in federal election law violations.

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“I got to tell you, I think this judge may have already committed reversible error,” Turley explained. “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.”

Donald Trump’s trial over his nondisclosure agreement has now entered its 12th day. 

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