Apr 23, 2024 - Politics & Policy

"Losing all credibility": Judge admonishes Trump's lawyer at gag order hearing

Former U.S. President Donald Trump returns to the courtroom for his trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments at Manhattan Criminal Court on April 23, 2024 in New York City.

Former President Trump returns to the courtroom for his trial at Manhattan Criminal Court on April 23. Photo: Brendan McDermid-Pool/Getty Images

The judge overseeing former President Trump's New York criminal trial appeared to be losing patience Tuesday, telling Trump attorney Todd Blanche that he was "losing all credibility with the court."

Why it matters: It's a dramatic admonishment from Judge Juan Merchan, just one day after opening statements in the case. It came during a tense hearing about whether Trump had violated the gag order the judge had put in place for the case.

  • The order bars Trump from commenting on witnesses, prosecutors, court staff and jurors. Prosecutors have argued that Trump has repeatedly violated it with social media posts that appear to attack key witnesses in the case, including his former fixer Michael Cohen.
  • The judge did not immediately rule Tuesday on whether Trump had violated the order.

Driving the news: Blanche argued during the Tuesday hearing that Trump's social media posts were political and did not violate the gag order.

  • Blanche said that Trump was responding to "a barrage of political attacks" from Cohen when he posted on his social media.
  • "There was repeated attacks," Blanche said.
  • Merchan responded: "'Repeated' is not specific."
  • He later told Blanche that he was "not giving [him] anything to hang my hat on to say, 'you're right, this was ambiguous.'"
  • "You've presented nothing," Merchan said. "I've asked you eight or nine times."
  • Blanche eventually said that Trump would be willing to take down any social media posts that the court determines to be a violation of the gag order.

Between the lines: Minutes after the hearing that scrutinized his social media posts, Trump wrote on his Truth Social account that Merchan "should recuse himself."

  • Trump has denied wrongdoing in the case and has repeatedly cast himself as the victim of politically motivated prosecutors.
  • "Highly conflicted, to put it mildly, Judge Juan Merchan, has taken away my constitutional right to free speech," Trump wrote in an all-caps post.
  • Merchan is not included in the gag order in the case.

Zoom out: Prosecutors have requested that Merchan fine Trump $1,000 for each violation of the gag order.

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