Trump fined $1,000 for violating gag order and threatened with jail

The fine marks Trump’s second sanction for inflammatory comments about witnesses since the trial began last month.

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NEW YORK – The judge presiding over Donald Trump’s hush money trial fined him $1,000 for violating his gag order and sternly warned the former president that a further violation could result in jail time.

The fine marks Trump’s second sanction for inflammatory comments about witnesses since the trial began last month. Last week he was fined $9,000 for nine violations.

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Judge Juan M. Merchán warned Monday that additional violations of the gag order could result in prison sentences, although he said that was “the last thing I want to do.”

Prosecutors in Trump’s hush money trial are moving deeper into his orbit following an inside account about the former president’s reaction to a politically damaging recording that surfaced in the final weeks of the 2016 campaign.

Hope Hicks, a former White House official and longtime top aide, is by far the closest Trump associate to take the stand as a witness in the Manhattan trial.

His testimony Friday was designed to give jurors an inside look at a chaotic and crucial stretch of the campaign, when a 2005 recording was made public showing Trump talking about grabbing women without their permission and when he and his allies They tried to prevent the release of other potentially embarrassing stories. That effort, prosecutors say, included hush payments to a porn actor and a Playboy model who said they had sexual encounters with Trump before he entered politics.

“I had the good sense to believe that this was going to be a massive story and that it was going to dominate the news cycle for the next few days,” Hicks said of the “Access Hollywood” recording, first revealed in an October 2016 report in Washington. Post story. “This was a damaging development.”

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The trial enters its third week of testimony Monday, with prosecutors moving toward their star witness, Michael Cohen, Trump’s former attorney and personal fixer who pleaded guilty to federal charges related to hush payments. Cohen is expected to undergo tough questioning from defense attorneys seeking to undermine his credibility with jurors.

Trump faces 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in connection with payments made to smother potentially embarrassing stories. Prosecutors say Trump’s company, the Trump Organization, reimbursed Cohen for payments to porn actor Stormy Daniels and gave Cohen bonuses and additional payments. Prosecutors allege those transactions were falsely recorded in company records as legal expenses.

Trump pleaded not guilty and denied having sexual encounters with any of the women, as well as any wrongdoing.

So far, jurors have heard from witnesses, including a tabloid magazine editor and friend of Trump who bought the rights to several sordid stories about Trump to prevent them from coming to light, and a Los Angeles lawyer who negotiated deals. of money on behalf of Daniels and the Playboy model. Karen McDougal.

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Trump’s lawyers have sought to undermine the prosecution’s theory of the case and the credibility of some witnesses. They have raised questions during questioning about whether Trump was possibly subject to extortion, forced to arrange payments to suppress damaging stories and spare his family shame and pain. Prosecutors maintain that the payments were intended to preserve his political viability while he sought the presidency.

The case is one of four Trump prosecutions and possibly the only one that will go to trial before the November election. Other felony indictments accuse him of conspiring to subvert the 2020 presidential election after losing to Democrat Joe Biden and of illegally hoarding classified documents after leaving the White House.

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Tucker reported from Washington.

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