Trump fined over GAG order violations

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Judge Juan Merchan fined former President Donald Trump $9,000 for nine gag order violations and warned of possible jail time for further breaches. The gag order prevents Trump from publicly discussing witnesses or jurors in his criminal hush money case.

After Trump posted on social media about his former lawyer Michael Cohen and the jury, the Manhattan District Attorney’s office sought $1,000 per violation and highlighted potential jail penalties. Additional contempt charges are also being considered.

We were joined by Paul Charlton, Partner at Denton’s and former U.S. Attorney, to discuss this ongoing case.

“For you and I, this would be a significant number. If you’re a billionaire, it’s not so significant,” said Charlton, referring to Judge Merchan’s struggle to find impositions that would deter the former president from further violating the gag order.

Judge Merchan has threatened incarceration if Trump continues to violate his gag order, but Charlton is doubtful that will happen.

“If you think about just the mechanics of the means to incarcerate a former president who has a security detail, where can you truly do that? With Secret Service agents who have to watch for the safety and protection of all former presidents, how does that happen? If you’re running for president, as this individual is, and you’re the leading candidate for one of the parties, how do you keep that individual away from the election? How do you stop that?” questioned Charlton.

“All of these are very difficult questions, and you can see the judge is reluctant to move that far,” explained Charlton.

The former president has argued that the gag order limits his freedom of speech. That argument, Charlton said, has been litigated many times.

“The idea of a gag order isn’t new. It happens throughout the country and state federal courts every day. What’s different is that this former president is running for president of the United States. So, it makes the argument, ‘I need to stand up in front of the people and make statements to argue why it is I should be the next president,’ more difficult for the judge,” Charlton further explained.

“Now, the President is also saying when someone like Michael Cohen, his former lawyer, says something unkind about him, ‘Why can’t I, as the former President, say something in return?’ So, the judge heard a little bit about that argument today. It seemed to gain a little bit of traction, but there was another argument the prosecution made saying he’s also talking about the jurors.”

Charlton said the judge seemed to take the prosecutor’s stance to heart more. However, it will likely be a few more days before we’ll hear from the judge on the issue.

Paul Charlton, Partner at Denton's, Former U. S. Attorney

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