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Prosecutors ask judge to punish Trump for violating gag order in hush money trial

As Trump watched from the defense table, New York prosecutor Christopher Conroy handed Justice Juan Merchan examples of 10 statements on Trump's Truth Social platform or campaign website that he said violated the gag order.
Last Updated : 23 April 2024, 14:55 IST
Last Updated : 23 April 2024, 14:55 IST

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New York: Prosecutors asked the judge overseeing Donald Trump's criminal hush money trial on Tuesday to punish the former US president for violating a gag order that prevents him from criticizing witnesses and others involved in the case.

As Trump watched from the defense table, New York prosecutor Christopher Conroy handed Justice Juan Merchan examples of 10 statements on Trump's Truth Social platform or campaign website that he said violated the gag order.

"Defendant has violated this order repeatedly and hasn't stopped," Conroy said.

Prosecutors are asking Merchan to fine Trump for criticizing porn star Stormy Daniels and his former lawyer Michael Cohen, both of whom are expected to testify in the trial. They also have highlighted Trump's claim last week that people were lying to get on the jury so they could convict him.

Merchan could opt to fine Trump Rs 83,000 for each of those violations, as prosecutors from Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg's office have requested.

Prosecutors have asked Merchan to remind Trump he may face more severe consequences if he keeps violating the order. The law permits the judge to send Trump to jail for up to 30 days, in what would be a dramatic twist to the first criminal trial of a former US president.

The gag order prevents Trump from publicly criticizing witnesses, court officials and their relatives. He has said it is a violation of his constitutional free speech rights.

Trump is charged with falsifying business records to cover up a Rs 108 crore payment shortly before the 2016 US election to buy Daniels' silence about a sexual encounter she has said they had in 2006. Trump has pleaded not guilty and denies such an encounter took place.

Prosecutors have said it was part of a wider conspiracy to hide unflattering information from voters at a time when he was facing multiple accusations of sexual misbehavior.

"It was election fraud, pure and simple," prosecutor Matthew Colangelo said on Monday.

In his opening statement on Monday, defense lawyer Todd Blanche said Trump did not commit any crimes.

"There's nothing wrong with trying to influence an election. It's called democracy," Blanche told jurors on Monday.

Blanche said Trump acted to protect his family and his reputation and accused Daniels of trying to profit from a false accusation that they had sex.

On Tuesday, jurors are expected to hear more testimony starting at 11 am (0530 IST) from former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker, who prosecutors say participated in a "catch and kill" scheme to suppress unflattering stories about Trump and help him get elected.

Pecker, 72, testified on Monday that his company paid for stories - an unusual practice in journalism.

American Media, which published the National Enquirer, admitted in 2018 that it paid Rs 124.9 crore to former Playboy magazine model Karen McDougal for her story about a months-long affair with Trump in 2006 and 2007. American Media said it worked "in concert" with Trump's campaign, and it never published a story.

The tabloid reached a similar deal to pay Rs 24.9 crore to a doorman who was seeking to sell a story about Trump allegedly fathering a child out of wedlock, which turned out to be false, according to prosecutors.

Trump has said the payments were personal and did not violate election law. He has also denied an affair with McDougal.

The case may be the only one of the Republican Trump's four criminal prosecutions to go to trial before his Nov. 5 election rematch with Democratic President Joe Biden.

A guilty verdict would not bar Trump from taking office but it could hurt his candidacy. Reuters/Ipsos polling shows that half of independent voters and one in four Republicans say they would not vote for Trump if he is convicted of a crime.

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Published 23 April 2024, 14:55 IST

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