Judge Threatens Trump With Jail Over Gag Order Violations

He fined Trump $1,000 each for nine specific instances, and instructed him to remove seven "offending posts" from his Truth Social account and two from a campaign website by Tuesday afternoon.

Former US President Donald Trump speaks to the press before departing for the day at his trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments linked to extramarital affairs, at Manhattan Criminal Court in New York City on April 30, 2024. (Photo by Eduardo Munoz / POOL / AFP)


The New York judge presiding over Donald Trump’s hush money trial fined the former president on Tuesday for defying a gag order and warned that further violations could see him thrown in jail.

Trump, 77, is accused of falsifying business records to reimburse his lawyer, Michael Cohen, for a $130,000 payment made to porn star Stormy Daniels just days ahead of the 2016 election against Hillary Clinton.

Ahead of the high-profile trial — the first ever of a former US president — Judge Juan Merchan ordered Trump not to publicly attack witnesses, jurors or court staff and their relatives.

Merchan held Trump in contempt of court for multiple violations of the partial gag order.

He fined Trump $1,000 each for nine specific instances, and instructed him to remove seven “offending posts” from his Truth Social account and two from a campaign website by Tuesday afternoon.

Lamenting that he could not impose a fine “more commensurate with the wealth of the contemnor,” the judge warned the former president that he could be sent to jail if he continues to violate the gag order.

“Defendant is hereby warned that the Court will not tolerate continued willful violations of its lawful orders and that if necessary and appropriate under the circumstances, it will impose an incarceratory punishment,” Merchan said.

The judge delivered his order before testimony resumed in Trump’s historic trial, which is restricting his time on the campaign trail less than seven months before his likely November election rematch with Democrat Joe Biden.

Prosecutors allege that Trump made the hush money payment to Daniels to silence her about an alleged 2006 sexual encounter that could have potentially derailed his 2016 White House bid.

Trump denies having sex with Daniels and has used appearances outside the Manhattan courtroom to rail against his indictment, claiming it is a “witch hunt” by Democrats to torpedo his campaign to recapture the presidency.

“I’d much rather be in Georgia. I’d much rather be in Florida,” the Republican candidate told reporters on Tuesday. “I’d like to be able to campaign. Biden’s out campaigning.”

READ ALSO: Judge Holds Trump In Contempt For Gag Order Violations

‘Blockbuster Trump story’ 

Taking the witness stand on Tuesday was Keith Davidson, who served as an attorney for Daniels and Karen McDougal, a Playboy model who also claimed to have had an affair with Trump.

Davidson told the court he was negotiating before the 2016 election to sell McDougal’s story to ABC News or American Media Inc, publisher of the National Enquirer tabloid.

“I have a blockbuster Trump story,” Davidson told National Enquirer editor-in-chief Dylan Howard in a message, to which Howard replied “Did he cheat on Melania?”

McDougal’s story was eventually purchased by AMI for $150,000 and then buried, according to testimony last week by David Pecker, the former publisher of the tabloid, a scheme known in the industry as “catch and kill.”

Asked why McDougal preferred to sell her story to AMI, Davidson said “because she, at that time, she had announced her desire to not tell the story of her interlude with Donald Trump.”

Testifying before Davidson was Gary Farro, a former senior managing director of the now defunct First Republic Bank.

Cohen, Trump’s “fixer,” set up an account at First Republic in the name of a company called Essential Consultants to arrange for the payment to Daniels.

Cohen, who has become a vocal Trump critic, and Daniels are expected to be star prosecution witnesses.

In addition to the New York case, Trump has been indicted in Washington and Georgia on charges of conspiring to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

He also faces charges in Florida of allegedly mishandling classified documents after leaving the White House.