Trump risks gag order fines by lashing out at ‘very unfair’ jury hours before contempt hearing

Donald Trump risked breaking the gag order in his hush money trial by lashing out at what he claimed to be the “very unfair” jury just hours before a hearing to determine whether he should be held in contempt of court.

On Monday evening, the former president called into conservative radio show Outside the Beltway on the Real America’s Voice to complain about his trial.

“This judge – who is a totally conflicted person, by the way, he should not be the judge of this case, he’s so conflicted, nobody’s ever been as conflicted as him, just about – but this judge said I can’t get away from the trial,” Mr Trump moaned to host John Fredericks.

“You know he’s rushing the trial. That jury was picked so fast – 95 per cent Democrats. The area is mostly all Democrats. You think of it as just a purely Democrat area. It’s a very unfair situation, that I can tell you.”

The former president made the comments just hours before Judge Juan Merchan was set to hear a complaint from the prosecution about his alleged violations of the gag order in the case.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg is asking the judge to hold the criminal defendant in contempt of court and fine him for what they argue was at least seven different violations of the gag order.

“It’s ridiculous, and it has to stop,” assistant district attorney Christopher Conroy told the judge on Thursday, pointing to Mr Trump’s continued posts about the trial on his Truth Social platform.

Donald Trump in court on 22 April 2024 before opening arguments got under way in his Manhattan criminal trial (AP)
Donald Trump in court on 22 April 2024 before opening arguments got under way in his Manhattan criminal trial (AP)

The former president was previously hit with a gag order in the case following hhis repeated public outbursts railing against Mr Bragg, Judge Merchan and even the justice’s daughter – alleging political bias against them without evidence.

Last week, one of Mr Trump’s social media posts featured a clip of Fox News personality Jesse Watters speculating about the prospect of “undercover left-wing activists” among the pool of New Yorkers being considered for jury duty. Prosecutors slammed the label as “disturbing”.

Such was the concern about the former president’s social media activity among lawyers from the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office that they last week declined to tell the defence in advance who their witnesses would be, preferring to shield them from Mr Trump’s wrath.

Despite the prospect of financial penalties hanging over his head if he is found to have violated the terms of the order, the defendant again ranted outside court on Monday about the injustice he claims he is facing and accused prosecution witness Michael Cohen, his estranged former personal attorney, of lying.

He also later labelled Mr Bragg “an election denier” on Truth Social in what may be another potential violation.

Speaking on MSNBC about Mr Trump’s comments, legal analyst Andrew Weissmann said: “The fact that he’s doing something that appears by all accounts to be a direct violation of the order as late as tonight in advance of a 9.30am hearing on violations with respect to witnesses and a violation with respect to jurors — both… are things that a judge is going to care tremendously about.

“He could impose the fine that is obviously negligible and saber-rattle about what’s next,” Mr Weissmann added, but recommended that the judge instead “leave aside politics” and treat Mr Trump’s conduct just like that of “any other defendant.”

He continued: “We have seen the legal system bend over so far to accommodate Donald Trump. He is not being treated worse. He is being treated so much better, whether you’re talking about [the Department of Justice] or whether you’re talking about all of the criminal cases.”

Opening statements got under way in the trial on Monday and the first prosecution witness – former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker – took the stand to testify about the so-called “catch-and-kill” scheme.

He will return to the stand on Tuesday after the gag order hearing.

Mr Trump is expected to be on trial in New York for six to eight weeks after being indicted last year by Mr Bragg, who accused him of falsifying business records to conceal a $130,000 payment made to adult film star Stormy Daniels in order to silence her about an alleged affair they had in 2006.

The defendant, running for the presidency once more in 2024, denies the affair and has pleaded not guilty to all 34 felony counts against him. He has repeatedly attacked the case as a “scam” and a “witch hunt” designed by his political enemies to stop him campaigning for the White House against Joe Biden.