Updated Apr 30, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Trump could be jailed over gag order violations in hush money trial, judge warns

: Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to the media at the end of the day at Manhattan Criminal Court during his trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments on April 22, 2024 in New York City.

Former President Trump speaks to the media at the end of the day at Manhattan Criminal Court on April 22. Photo: Victor J. Blue - Pool/Getty Images

The judge overseeing former President Trump's New York criminal trial on Tuesday ruled he violated the gag order against him. He was ordered to pay a $9,000 fine.

Why it matters: The judge warned that he would "impose an incarceratory punishment" if Trump continued to violate the gag order in the case.

  • He also said that the former president must remove seven "offending" social media posts and two posts on his campaign website by 2:15 pm ET.

Driving the news: "The Order is narrowly tailored to prevent risk to the fair administration of justice and it clearly and unambiguously identifies the limited way in which Defendant's speech is restricted," Judge Juan Merchan wrote.

  • Merchan also wrote that the court is "keenly aware of, and protective of" Trump's First Amendment rights.
  • That's "particularly given his candidacy for the office of President of The United States," the order read.

The big picture: The historic hush money trial is continuing its second week of testimony, with several key players left to take the stand.

  • Merchan clashed last week with Trump's team during a hearing over the limited gag order. He told Trump's attorney Todd Blanche: "You're losing all credibility with the court."

State of play: Prosecutors have argued that the former president's social media posts and other statements attacking jurors and potential witnesses ran afoul of the order.

  • The gag order prohibits Trump from commenting on witnesses, prosecutors, court staff and jurors, as well as their relatives.

Zoom in: Prosecutors had asked Merchan to fine Trump $1,000 for each violation of the gag order.

  • They also requested that he warn Trump that subsequent violations could result in jail time.

What to watch: Merchan said that he would consider jail time for Trump when a "$1,000 fine will not achieve the intended purpose," which is the maximum fine for criminal contempt.

  • "While $1,000 may suffice in most instances to protect the dignity of the judicial system, ... it unfortunately will not achieve the desired result in those instances where the contemnor can easily afford such a fine," Merchan wrote.
  • "Because this Court is not cloaked with such discretion, it must therefore consider whether in some instances, jail may be a necessary punishment."

Go deeper: Trump again tempts his fate on New York gag order

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