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Judge in New York trial gives Trump a ‘reality check’ moment after desperate and cheap attempt to dodge testimony

On Monday, May 7, the New York jury listened to more testimony in the criminal trial involving former U.S. President Donald Trump. He’s accused of falsifying business records related to hush-money payments made before the 2016 election. Before the day’s proceedings, Judge Juan Merchan fined Trump $1,000 for violating a gag order and held him in contempt of court for the 10th time. “I do not want to impose a jail sanction and have done everything I can to avoid doing so. But I will if necessary,” Merchan said from the bench.

About the case

Trump, facing 34 felony charges in this case, is accused of conspiring to “undermine the integrity” of the 2016 presidential election by withholding damaging information that could have affected his campaign. Although Trump wasn’t directly involved in the payments, which was also demonstrated in court, prosecutors insist that he orchestrated the payments to silence Daniels, who alleged they had an extramarital affair.

The controversy regarding the gag order amid the presidential campaign

A gag order was issued in former President Donald Trump’s hush-money lawsuit trial in New York. He is not allowed to speak on jurors or witnesses in the case under the gag order. Trump has nevertheless been found in contempt of court on several occasions for breaking the gag order. Should Trump continue to disregard the ruling in the coming period, Justice Juan Merchan has issued severe warnings, including the possibility of jail time. Gag orders are common legal safeguards against undue influence or disturbance that could result from public comments, therefore ensuring the integrity and fairness of the judicial process. Now Trump wants to use the gag order in his favor.

Trump might refuse to testify

Last week marked the end of the third week in Donald Trump’s New York trial. Trump, notorious for his false claim that the 2020 election was rigged, has continued to spread misinformation outside the courtroom. His defense, in turn, has adopted a conspiratorial tone toward the evidence presented. On Thursday, Judge Juan Merchan evaluated further instances of Trump potentially violating a gag order, to which Trump responded by telling reporters, “I’m not allowed to testify. I’m under a gag order, I guess. I can’t testify.” He also claimed: “I’m not allowed to talk.”

These assertions about testifying and restrictions on speaking were inaccurate. Trump retains the right to testify in his defense and can speak about the trial, provided he avoids commentary on witnesses and other specific topics outlined in the gag order.

“I want to stress, Mr Trump, that you have an absolute right to testify at trial,” Merchan said, explaining that that the gag order doesn't apply on the stand
Credit: Unsplash

Merchan gave Trump a “reality check” on Friday

On Friday, Merchan delivered a “reality check” to Trump. Before the day’s proceedings began, Merchan appeared to recognize the complications arising from the spread of these falsehoods

“I want to stress, Mr Trump, that you have an absolute right to testify at trial,” Merchan said. “The order prohibiting extra-judicial statements does not prevent you from testifying in any way.”

Why does it matter

Donald Trump is currently facing over 90 criminal charges across four separate cases in different states. His defense teams are primarily focused on delaying the trials for as long as possible, ideally until after the upcoming November election. Trump aims to secure a self-pardon if reelected in what most certainly is going to be a 2020 rematch between him and President Joe Biden.

After leading in the polls for months, Trump now finds himself neck and neck with Biden according to a aggregate of 686 surveys by The Hill, which indicates both presumed candidates holding 44.8% of the votes. In addition to his New York trial, Trump is facing charges in Georgia, Washington D.C., and Florida.

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