May 23, 2024

On Monday, jury selection started in the first-ever criminal prosecution of a former U.S. President. Presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump appeared in a Manhattan courtroom, facing 34 felony counts of falsifying business records. 

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On the first day of the criminal trial, prosecutors from the Manhattan district attorney’s office lodged a request for a $3,000 fine, alleging Trump is in violation of Judge Juan Merchan’s gag order. Prosecutors argue that Trump has made public criticisms of potential witnesses involved in the case, urging Judge Merchan to hold Trump in contempt.


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The gag order, initially imposed by Merchan in March, barred Trump from making public statements regarding potential witnesses, court personnel, or legal counsel. This order was expanded earlier this month to include family members of these individuals after Trump made social media posts regarding Merchan’s daughter’s role in a leftist firm, claiming these ties bias the judge against him. 

The prosecution alleges that Trump made posts that included derogatory remarks about his former attorney, Michael Cohen, and adult film actress Stormy Daniels, deeming them to be violations of the gag order. The DA’s office cited Trump calling Cohen a “disgraced attorney and felon” on Saturday and referred to Cohen and Daniels as “sleaze bags” in a Thursday Truth Social post.

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Cohen, expected to be the state’s star witness, responded on Saturday, arguing that Trump should be sanctioned for the “sleaze bag” commentary, writing on social media,

 When does enough become enough and the petulant man child gets a timeout in lockup for his bad behavior?

The prosecutor seeks a $1,000 fine for each of the three alleged violations, an order for Trump to delete the posts on Truth Social, and a warning Trump of potential jail time for future violations. The prosecution suggested Trump may have attacked Cohen again while in court on Monday morning, marking a fourth violation.

Trump’s legal team defended his actions during the trial, saying that they plan to submit a motion opposing the contempt charges against Trump. They argue that the former president’s remarks were a response to “salacious, repeated, vehement attacks by these witnesses” and do not constitute a violation of the gag order.

Trump and defense attorney Todd Blanche said,

It’s not as if President Trump is going out and targeting individuals. He’s responding to … attacks from these witnesses.

Trump and his legal team have denounced the gag order as “unconstitutional” and an unjust encroachment on Trump’s First Amendment rights. They have filed an appeal against the gag order, asserting that it is inflicting “ongoing, irreparable harm” on Trump and the “voting public.”

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The judge has given Trump’s attorneys until April 19 to submit their written response. Prosecutor Christopher Conroy also requested that a copy of the order be served to Trump, and the papers were subsequently handed to Blanche at the defense table.

Jury selection is estimated to last up to two weeks, with the entire trial projected to span between six and eight weeks. Judge Merchan has scheduled a hearing to address the prosecutor’s request to hold Trump in contempt for allegedly breaching the gag order on Tuesday, April 23rd, at 9:30 a.m. ET. Merchan had initially scheduled the hearing for April 24, but there will not be court held on Wednesday, as per the trial’s previously outlined schedule. 

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