Judge threatens Trump with jail time for violating hush-money procedures

Republican presidential candidate and former US President Donald Trump is in court as his criminal trial over allegations that he falsified company records to hide money he paid in 2016 to silence porn star Stormy Daniels continues in court. Manhattan in New York City, USA. May 6, 2024.

Brendan Mcdermid | Reuters

This is news development. Check back for updates throughout the day.

A judge issued a dire warning to Donald Trump on Monday: stop violating the court's orders or you will be thrown in jail.

“The last thing I want to do is put you in jail. You are the former president of the United States, and possibly the next president,” Judge Juan Merchan told Trump in the Manhattan Supreme Court, where the former president sits. trial in a criminal hush money case.

“I don't want to suggest a prison sentence,” Merchan said, but “I will, if necessary.”

The ultimatum came less than a week after the judge held Trump in contempt of court for repeatedly violating his gag order, which bars him from speaking about witnesses, jurors and other parties involved in the trial.

Merchan gave Trump the maximum fine of $1,000 for each of the nine violations. The judge issued a ruling Monday morning, which he did not read from the hearing, on four other alleged violations of the silence order that prosecutors had noted.

“It appears the $1,000 fines are not serving as a deterrent,” Merchan said.

He said he would not rush to take the drastic step of throwing Trump in jail for his continued contempt.

“The magnitude of such a decision is not lost on me,” Merchan said.

“There are a lot of reasons why incarceration is really a last resort for you,” he said. “Taking that step would disrupt the proceedings.”

“But at the end of the day, I have a job to do.”

The tense start to the fourth week of the historic trial followed a series of other dramatic developments, including an emotional breakdown on the witness stand by a former top White House aide.

On Friday, former Trump aide Hope Hicks testified under a subpoena for the prosecution. She provided an insider's account of how Trump and his team responded to damaging news about him during the 2016 presidential campaign. This included the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape, in which Trump was caught on tape bragging about sexual misconduct.

“Everyone just absorbed the shock of it,” said Hicks, describing the immediate aftermath of the tape's release.

That tape renewed media interest in porn star Stormy Daniels' little-known account of a sexual encounter she says she had with Trump in 2006. For much of the week, the jury heard from an attorney who helped arrange a $130,000 hush money payment for Daniels. . That payment is central to the plaintiff's case.

Former White House Communications Director Hope Hicks leaves the hearing room during a break during a closed-door interview with the House Judiciary Committee on June 19, 2019 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.

Alex Wong | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Trump is charged with 34 counts of falsifying company records to conceal the reimbursement to his lawyer for the payment to Daniels. The $130,000 was paid by Trump's then-attorney Michael Cohen less than two weeks before the 2016 election. Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg accuses Trump of hiding the details of the payment to further an illegal scheme to rig the election to influence.

Hicks testified that while she was working in the Trump White House, Trump told her that Cohen had made the payment without Trump's knowledge to protect him, and that he did it “out of the kindness of his own heart.”

Hicks said she thought acting out of pure kindness would be “out of character for Michael.”

She also suggested that Trump was glad the Daniels story didn't come out before the election. “I think Mr. Trump felt that it was better to deal with it now, and that it would have been bad if that story had come out before the election,” she testified.

Read more about Trump's hush money lawsuit

As Trump's lawyers began their cross-examination and asked her basic questions about her time at the Trump Organization, Hicks quickly broke down in tears on the witness stand.

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