Trump Given Final Warning: Shut Up or Face Jail

Seth Winnig/Getty
Seth Winnig/Getty

The third week of Donald Trump’s criminal trial in New York got off to an aggressive start on Tuesday morning, when the former president was swiftly fined $9,000 by the judge for repeatedly making public comments about jurors and witnesses—ignoring the court’s gag order that sought to stymie an ongoing MAGA intimidation campaign.

But when the judge’s order was filed minutes later, it became clear the that Trump is also receiving a final warning: stop the threatening rhetoric or get a one-way ticket behind bars.

“Defendant is hereby warned that the Court will not tolerate continued violations of its lawful orders and that if necessary and appropriate under the circumstances, it will impose an incarceratory punishment,” New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan wrote in his order.

In court, the judge said prosecutors had clearly proven that Trump was violating his court order in nine out of 10 instances, fining him $1,000 for each violation. Of course, the $9,000 fine is chump change to the former president, roughly the cost of a single suit by his preferred designer, Brioni.

“The people met their burden of proof and demonstrated contempt,” Merchan said with little fanfare.

Trump’s lead defense lawyer, Todd Blanche, didn’t voice any objection—opting instead to get the trial back on track with witness testimony.

The written ruling ordered Trump to take down “the seven offending posts” from his Truth Social account and his campaign website by 2:15 p.m. on the same day. Just 30 minutes before that deadline, Trump complied with the order, removing each of the seven posts.

Although the matter took less than two minutes to resolve, it was weeks in the making. On the very first day of the trial, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office asked the judge to hold Trump in contempt for making posts on Truth Social and his 2024 Republican presidential campaign website about aspects of the trial that the judge previously deemed off-limits.

Prosecutors pointed to the way Trump made a Truth Social post that shared a New York Post article and quoted its headline: “A serial perjurer will try to prove an old misdemeanor against Trump in an embarrassment for the New York legal system.”

They also noted how Trump made a clear reference to a key witness in the trial: the porn star Stormy Daniels, whom Trump paid $130,000 in hush money that is the focal point of the case, which relates to criminal falsification of business records.

Prosecutors showed the judge a post Trump made on Truth Social that referenced a recent MSNBC interview with Daniels’ former lawyer, who trashed her on live TV during a jailhouse interview.

“Thank you to Michael Avenatti—for revealing the truth about two sleaze bags who have, with their lies and misrepresentations, cost our Country dearly!” Trump posted on Wednesday morning.

The brief lashing isn’t the first time Trump has been slapped on the wrist for blatantly ignoring gag orders—or even the first time he’s been on the receiving end of Merchan’s diminishing patience.

At his bank fraud trial in civil court last year, Justice Arthur F. Engoron fined Trump multiple times and even floated the idea of jailing him temporarily after the politician continued to direct threatening rhetoric against the judge’s clerk.

And in this 15th floor room at the Manhattan criminal courthouse, the atmosphere has gotten increasingly heated. During the first week, Justice Merchan forcefully ordered Trump to stop muttering things toward a juror, saying “I will not have any jurors intimidated in this courtroom. I want to make that crystal clear.” Three days later, the judge ordered Trump to sit down like a dog.

Merchan also ruled Tuesday that Trump can go to his son’s high school graduation, two weeks after the former president claimed he was being prevented from attending the May 17 event in West Palm Beach.

The judge previously ruled that Trump would not be excused from his criminal trial to attend Supreme Court arguments, but left the door open about Trump attending important family events.

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