Hush money trial judge tees up ruling on whether Trump violated gag order, should pay thousands

The judge presiding over former President Trump’s hush money trial in New York City announced he will hear arguments this month on whether Trump violated a gag order amid the case and should pay $1,000 fines for each violation. Judge Juan Merchan said he will hear arguments on April 23 at 9:30 a.m. regarding whether Trump violated a gag order that prevents him from making public statements about witnesses and their anticipated testimony in the trial. The district attorney’s office argued Monday that Trump has violated the order three times in social media posts and should pay $1,000 for each violation of the gag order. The prosecutors said Trump should remove the posts and requested that he be held in contempt. LIVE UPDATES: TRUMP’S HUSH MONEY PAYMENT GETS UNDERWAY AS JURY SELECTION BEGINS”The defendant is aware of the April 1 order. We know that from various posts he had made,” said prosecutor Christopher Conroy before Merchan’s ruling. “We think it is important for the court to remind Mr. Trump is a criminal defendant,” Conroy added. Trump’s defense attorney, Todd Blanche, said the former president was defending himself.”He is responding to salacious, repeated, vehement attacks by these witnesses,” Blanche said.  The defense team has until April 19 to file a written response to the prosecutors’ claims Trump violated the gag order. The hush money case began Monday and marks the historical first of a former president standing trial on criminal charges. The case focuses on former Trump attorney Michael Cohen paying former pornography actor Stormy Daniels $130,000 ahead of the 2016 election to allegedly silence her claims she had an affair with Trump in 2006. POTENTIAL TRUMP HUSH MONEY TRIAL JURORS BEING ASKED 42 QUESTIONSProsecutors say the Trump Organization reimbursed Cohen and falsely recorded the payments as legal expenses. Prosecutors are working to prove that Trump falsified the records with an intent to commit or conceal a second crime, which is a felony. Trump has denied the affair and pleaded not guilty to 34 charges of falsifying business records. The 45th president has repeatedly slammed the case as a “witch hunt,” including on social media and during campaign rallies, and said Monday from the courthouse that he was facing down “political persecution.”TRUMP CALLS HUSH MONEY TRIAL ‘ASSAULT ON AMERICA’ AS CASE OFFICIALLY KICKS OFF”Nothing like this has ever happened before,” he said in Lower Manhattan. “This is political persecution. … It’s a case that should have never been brought.””This is an assault on America, and that’s why I’m very proud to be here,” Trump added. “This is really an attack on a political opponent.”9 QUESTIONS ABOUT TRUMP TRIAL, ANSWEREDThe trial began with jury selection, where a pool of more than 500 potential jurors will be asked a series of questions to determine if they can fairly assess the case. The potential jurors will be dismissed until a pool of 12 jurors, as well as a handful of alternates, are selected. The jury selection process is anticipated to last at least a week. Trump’s legal team said Monday that the 45th president wants to be present for each interview, which Merchan acknowledged but said would likely be tricky due to Trump’s Secret Service presence.
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