Judge finds Trump further violated gag order and again threatens him with jail ‘if necessary’

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Judge Juan Merchan on Monday again cited former President Donald Trump for violating the gag order he imposed on the trial and warned he could face jail “if necessary” for continuing to ignore it.

Merchan previously found that Trump had violated the gag order in nine other instances and fined him $9,000. In issuing that decision, Merchan warned Trump that continued violations of the order could result in incarceration — a threat he made again Monday after fining him the maximum of $1,000 for the most recent violation.

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

“The last thing I want to do is to put you in jail,” he added. “You are the former president of the United States, and possibly the next president as well.”

“There are many reasons why incarceration is truly a last resort for you,” he continued, adding that taking that step would be “disruptive to the proceedings.”

But Merchan warned Trump that “his continued willful violations of this court’s orders threaten the administration of justice and constitute a direct attack on the rule of law. I cannot allow that to continue.”

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Merchan also said that if the offending statement has been posted to Trump’s Truth Social account or his official campaign website, it must be removed by 2:15 p.m.

Merchan ruled Monday that Trump’s comments in an interview last month that the jury was “picked so fast” and was “95% Democrats” violated the gag order. The order prohibits Trump from discussing the jury or witnesses with the intent to influence their decisions or testimony.

“In doing so, Defendant not only called into question the integrity, and therefore the legitimacy of these proceedings, but again raised the specter of fear for the safety of the jurors and of their loved ones,” Merchan wrote.

Trump has repeatedly claimed Merchan’s gag order is unfair and unconstitutional.

“This judge has taken away my constitutional right,” Trump said in the hallway last week after initially being held in contempt of court. “We’re filing, I think today, a constitutional motion.”

He added, “If somebody says something about me and I’m not allowed to respond, that’s never happened before.”

Trump has repeatedly complained about Michael Cohen, his former lawyer, who is expected to testify for the prosecution. Trump’s lawyer Todd Blanche argued in court Thursday that Cohen’s statements about Trump mean the former president should be able to respond. He also argued that as a presidential candidate, Trump should be able to defend himself, pointing to a remark by President Joe Biden that appeared to allude to the case.

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