Trump trial attorney frustrated over gag order argument

Trump trial attorney frustrated over gag order argument
Trump trial attorney frustrated over gag order argument

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - NEW YORK — The second day of Donald Trump's hush-money trial got off to a rocky start for the former president's legal team.

On Tuesday, Justice Juan Merchan heard arguments about whether comments Trump made about those involved in the case violated a gag order.

Sparks quickly flew between his lead lawyer, Todd Blanche, and the judge.

After prosecutors alleged 10 of his social media posts violated the order, Blanche argued his client had a right to address "political attacks".

Justice Merchan was not buying it.

"You're losing all credibility with the court," he told Blanche, after trying to get him to hurry up his arguments.

Trump is accused by the prosecution of routinely breaking a restriction imposed by the judge that prevents him from publicly attacking witnesses, prosecutors and relatives of court staff.

"He knows about the order, he knows what he's not allowed to do, but he does it anyway," prosecutor Christopher Conroy told the court.

At stake for Trump is a $10,000 fine and a warning that future violations of the order could lead to his imprisonment.

The judge said he would reserve making a ruling until an unspecified time. In the break that followed the arguments, Trump took to social media site Truth Social to criticize Judge Merchan and claim that he is being unfairly blocked from defending himself against attacks.

Later, on Tuesday morning, a former tabloid newspaper publisher took the stand to resume his testimony in the historic criminal trial in New York City.

David Pecker ran the National Enquirer, which prosecutors say suppressed negative stories about Trump to benefit his 2016 election chances.

The case relates to hush-money paid to a porn star who Trump allegedly had sex with — though he denies doing so.

Trump is accused of trying to cover up a $130,000 (£104,500) payment to porn star Stormy Daniels before he won the race for the White House back in 2016.

Daniels alleges that she had sex with Trump in 2006 and that she was paid by his lawyer to stay quiet about it ahead of the pivotal vote.

Trump's former personal lawyer and "fixer", Michael Cohen, claims he was directed to pay Daniels $130,000 her silence about her alleged affair with Trump.

The trial centers on a reimbursement Trump made to Cohen.

Hush-money payments are not illegal. But prosecutors allege that Trump committed a crime by improperly recording the money used to reimburse Cohen as legal expenses.

They describe this as an effort to unlawfully influence the 2016 vote — which is what escalates the allegation into a more serious felony.

"It was election fraud, pure and simple," a lawyer told the jury on Monday during opening statements by both legal teams.

Trump has pleaded not guilty to 34 counts of falsifying business records.

Setting out the case for the defense, Trump's lawyer said his client was "cloaked in innocence", had committed no crimes, and that it was not illegal to try to influence an election.

The defense also sought to cast prosecutors' star witness — Cohen — as untrustworthy.

Pecker was the trial's first witness. He took the stand briefly on Monday.

Prosecutors allege that when running that tabloid, he pursued a practice known as "catch-and-kill" to support Trump's 2016 presidential run.

He did this by buying the rights to stories that cast Trump in a bad light. He would then decline to publish them, which effectively suppressed the damaging information.

A former Playboy model, Karen McDougal, said she was paid $150,000 by AMI for her story of an alleged affair with Trump — which he also denies.

This payment, the court heard, was to keep her quiet about the purported tryst during the final weeks of the election campaign. — BBC

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