Trump trial: Hearing on gag order violations; David Pecker to resume testimony

Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. President Donald Trump sits in the courtroom as his criminal trial over charges that he falsified business records to conceal money paid to silence porn star Stormy Daniels in 2016 continues, at Manhattan state court in New York City, U.S., April 22, 2024. 

Brendan Mcdermid | Reuters

This is developing news. Check back for updates.

The New York hush money trial of Donald Trump is set to resume Tuesday with testimony from its first witness, former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker.

But before Pecker returns to the stand, prosecutors and Trump’s attorneys are set to argue whether the former president should be held in contempt for allegedly violating his gag order 10 times in online posts.

Seven of those posts came during last week’s jury selection process. Most either referenced, or linked to articles referencing, Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen, a key witness in the Manhattan Supreme Court trial.

One of Trump’s posts on Truth Social echoed a claim from Fox News host Jesse Watters that “undercover Liberal Activists” are “lying to the Judge in order to get on the Trump Jury.”

The posts “unquestionably relate to known witnesses and prospective jurors in this criminal trial” in violation of Trump’s gag order, a state prosecutor wrote in a court filing Thursday.

The prosecutors want Judge Juan Merchan to hold Trump in contempt. If that happens, Merchan could technically impose punishments ranging from a small fine up to 30 days in county jail, though it is unlikely Trump would be locked up over the posts.

On Monday, jurors heard opening statements from the prosecution, which alleged that Trump led a criminal hush money scheme to influence the 2016 presidential election, and the defense, which denied that Trump had committed any crime.

“It was election fraud, pure and simple,” prosecutor Matthew Colangelo told the jury.

Defense lawyer Todd Blanche fired back, “I have a spoiler alert: There’s nothing wrong with trying to influence an election. It’s called democracy.”

Trump is charged with falsifying business records in order to discreetly reimburse Cohen, who in late 2016 paid porn star Stormy Daniels $130,000 for her silence about an alleged sexual tryst with Trump years earlier.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg accuses Trump of carrying out the hush money scheme in order to influence the 2016 election, which he would go on to win.

Read more about Trump’s hush money trial

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