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Sat. May 25th, 2024

Former U.S. President Donald Trump will appear in court on Tuesday for a contempt hearing, following allegations that he violated a gag order meant to prevent witness intimidation. The hearing is part of Trump’s historic criminal trial in New York, where he’s accused of business fraud related to hush money payments before the 2016 presidential election.

The contempt hearing comes just a day after opening arguments in Trump’s criminal trial, which involves allegations of falsifying business records and conspiracy. The prosecution contends that Trump, who is campaigning for the 2024 presidential election, made comments on social media that could intimidate key witnesses like Michael Cohen, his former personal lawyer, and Stormy Daniels, an adult film actress. The prosecution says Trump’s statements could undermine the integrity of the trial.

Judge Juan Merchan, who issued the partial gag order, has made it clear that any attempts to influence the jury or intimidate witnesses will not be tolerated. “I will not have any jurors intimidated in this courtroom,” Merchan stated during a previous hearing. The judge’s admonishment came after Trump was overheard muttering and gesturing in a way that could be seen as disruptive. Jurors in this case will remain anonymous to prevent potential harassment, and one juror has already stepped down due to fears of being identified.

If found in contempt, Trump could face a fine or even jail time, which would pose logistical and security challenges due to his status as a former president. Trump has downplayed these possibilities, suggesting that jail would be a “great honor.” Despite the gag order, Trump’s lawyers argue that his First Amendment rights are being infringed upon, while prosecutors insist that his inflammatory comments put the trial’s fairness at risk.

The criminal trial itself focuses on Trump’s alleged attempts to cover up a sexual encounter with Daniels in 2006 through hush money payments, as well as allegations that he engaged in a broader conspiracy to falsify business records. On Monday, Assistant District Attorney Matthew Colangelo presented the prosecution’s case, calling Trump’s actions “election fraud, pure and simple.” Defense attorney Todd Blanche countered, asserting that “President Trump did not commit any crimes.”

Tuesday’s hearing will also see the testimony of David Pecker, former publisher of the National Enquirer, who allegedly participated in a “catch-and-kill” strategy to suppress negative stories about Trump ahead of the 2016 election. Pecker’s testimony is scheduled to resume after the contempt hearing, adding another layer of complexity to Trump’s legal battles.

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