Donald Trump threatened with jail over gag order violations as ex-president's 'hush money' trial continues

6 May 2024, 17:58 | Updated: 6 May 2024, 22:25

Donald Trump has been threatened with jail time by the judge presiding over the ex-president's hush money trial
Donald Trump has been threatened with jail time by the judge presiding over the ex-president's hush money trial. Picture: Alamy

By Christian Oliver

Donald Trump has been threatened with jail time by the judge presiding over the ex-president's hush money trial if he continues to violate his gag order.

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Mr Trump was fined 1,000 dollars (nearly £800) as he was sternly warned not to harass witnesses and jurors.

The fine was the second for Mr Trump for inflammatory comments about witnesses since the start of the trial last month. He was fined 9,000 dollars (£7,172) last week for nine violations.

Judge Juan M Merchan warned Mr Trump on Monday that additional gag order violations could potentially result in jail time, though he said that was "the last thing I want to do".

Prosecutors in Mr Trump's hush money trial are moving deeper into his orbit following an inside-the-room account about the former president's reaction to a politically damaging recording that surfaced in the final weeks of the 2016 campaign.

Mr Trump is fighting his legal woes in the New York court while continuing his campaign for the 2024 presidential election in November as the presumptive Republican nominee.

Former President Donald Trump returns from a short break during his trial at Manhattan criminal court on Monday, May 6, 2024
Former President Donald Trump returns from a short break during his trial at Manhattan criminal court on Monday, May 6, 2024. Picture: Alamy

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It comes as Hope Hicks, a former White House official top aide to Mr Trump, continues to give evidence in the Manhattan trial. The testimony by Hicks - who is by far the closest Mr Trump associate to have given evidence in the Manhattan trial - was designed to give jurors an insider's view of a chaotic and pivotal stretch in the campaign.

During the 2016 campaign a 2005 recording showing Mr Trump talking about grabbing women without their permission was made public and when he and his allies sought to prevent the release of other potentially embarrassing stories.

Prosecutors say the campaign tried to make hush money payments to a porn actor and Playboy model who both have said they had sexual encounters with Mr Trump before he entered politics.

Addressing the Access Hollywood recording, first revealed in an October 2016 Washington Post story, Ms Hicks said: "I had a good sense to believe this was going to be a massive story and that it was going to dominate the news cycle for the next several days.

"This was a damaging development."

The trial enters its third week of testimony on Monday with prosecutors building toward their star witness, Michael Cohen, Mr Trump's former lawyer and personal fixer who pleaded guilty to federal charges related to the hush money payments.

Mr Cohen is expected to undergo a bruising cross-examination from defence attorneys seeking to undermine his credibility with jurors.

Trump faces 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in connection with payments made to stifle potentially embarrassing stories.

Prosecutors say Trump's company, the Trump Organisation, reimbursed Mr Cohen for payments to porn actor Stormy Daniels and gave Mr Cohen bonuses and extra payments. Prosecutors allege that those transactions were falsely logged in company records as legal expenses.

Trump has pleaded not guilty and denied sexual encounters with any of the women, as well as any wrongdoing.

So far, jurors have heard from witnesses including a tabloid magazine publisher and Trump friend who bought the rights to several sordid tales about Trump to prevent them from coming out and a Los Angeles lawyer who negotiated hush money deals on behalf of both Ms Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal.

The case is one of four Trump prosecutions and possibly the only one that will reach trial before the November election.

Other felony indictments charge him with plotting to subvert the 2020 presidential election after he lost to Democrat Joe Biden and illegally hoarding classified documents after he left the White House.

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