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Judge holds Trump in contempt, raises threat of jail

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New York, April 30: Donald Trump was held in contempt of court Tuesday and fined $9,000 for repeatedly violating a gag order that barred him from making public statements about witnesses, jurors and some others connected to his New York hush money case. If he does it again, the judge warned, he could be jailed.
Prosecutors had alleged 10 violations, but New York Judge Juan M Merchan found there were nine. The ruling was a stinging rebuke for the Republican former president, who had insisted he was exercising his free speech rights.
Merchan wrote that Trump “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.” Trump stared down at the table in front of him as the judge read the ruling, frowning slightly.
The ruling came at the start of the second week of testimony in the historic case. Manhattan prosecutors say Trump and his associates took part in an illegal scheme to influence the 2016 presidential campaign by burying negative stories. He has pleaded not guilty.
Trump must pay the fine by the close of business on Friday, Merchan said in a written ruling. He must remove seven offending posts from his Truth Social account and two from his campaign website by 2:15 pm EDT, Tuesday, Merchan said.
Merchan is also weighing other alleged gag order violations by Trump and will hear arguments Thursday.
Court was resuming Tuesday with Gary Farro, a banker who helped Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen open accounts, including one that Cohen used to buy the silence of porn performer Stormy Daniels. She alleged a 2006 sexual encounter with Trump, which he denies.
For his part, the former president and presumptive Republican nominee has been campaigning in his off-hours, but is required to be in court when it is in session, four days a week. Outside the courtroom, Trump criticized prosecutors again.
“This is a case that should have never been brought,” he said.
Jurors so far have heard from two other witnesses. Trump’s former longtime executive assistant, Rhona Graff, recounted that she recalled once seeing Daniels at Trump’s office suite in Trump Tower and figured the performer was a potential contestant for one of Trump’s “Apprentice”-brand shows. Former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker laid out how he agreed to serve as the Trump campaign’s “eyes and ears” by helping to squelch unflattering rumors and claims about Trump and women.
Through detailed testimony on email exchanges, business transactions and bank accounts, prosecutors are forming the foundation of their argument that Trump is guilty of 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in connection with the hush money payments. The prosecution is leading up to crucial testimony from Cohen himself, who went to federal prison after pleading guilty to campaign finance violations and other crimes. Trump has denied any wrongdoing and pleaded not guilty. (AP)

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