BREAKING: Judge Merchan tells Trump attorneys they are 'losing credibility' in gag order contempt hearing, 'reserves judgement' until later time

"We are not yet seeking an incarceratory penalty," prosecutor Chris Conroy said, but the "defendant seems to be angling for that."

Hannah Nightingale Washington DC

Tuesday’s trial day in the falsified business records case brought forth by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg against Donald Trump began with a contempt hearing after the prosecution alleged during jury selection last week that Trump violated the terms of Judge Juan Merchan’s gag order 10 times. 

During the first day of the trial on April 15, prosecutors with Bragg’s office said that Trump violated the gag order three times, and urged Merchan to hold Trump in contempt over the three social media posts. They urged Merchan to fine Trump $1,000 for each violation. Bragg’s team alleged during Thursday’s hearing that Trump violated the gag order seven more times. 

Trump’s team has argued leading up to the hearing that the posts should be considered political speech, not a violation of the gag order. 

Merchan placed a gag order on Trump in late March, prohibiting him from making statements about witnesses in the case as well as lawyers involved with "intent to materially interfere" with the case. The order was expanded in April to include "family members of any counsel, staff member, the Court or the District Attorney."  

The prosecution noted 10 instances of posts they allege violated the gag order: two Truth Social posts from April 10, one from April 13, two Truth Social posts and one campaign website post from April 15, two Truth Social posts and one campaign website post from April 16, and one Truth Social post from April 17. 

The first post cited by prosecutor Chris Conroy was from April 10, in which Trump allegedly refers to Stormy Daniels and Michael Cohen as "two sleezebags" in a repost of a Michael Avenatti post. 

When asked to explain how it violates the gag order, Conroy said that "by calling them sleezebags and going after their credibility, I think that’s all part of the plan for this trial. There is no other reason to be talking about that than related to this," according to CNN

Conroy said that "going after Michael Cohen is a recurring theme in these posts" from Trump, noting a post from Trump of a story allegedly calling Cohen a "serial perjurer." 

"Clearly a reference to Michael Cohen, clearly a reference to this proceeding," he said

Conroy rejected the Trump defense team’s argument that the posts were political in nature, saying, "Throwing 'MAGA' into a post doesn't make it political. If anything, it makes it more ominous," according to NBC News. 

He also argued against the defense team’s argument that the reposts from Trump didn’t violate the gag order, saying that this "flies in the face of common sense." 

"We are not yet seeking an incarceratory penalty," Conroy said, but the "defendant seems to be angling for that." 

Conroy said one Truth Social post was "very troubling." The post quoted Fox News host Jesse Watters saying that there were liberal activists attempting to get on to the jury by lying to the judge. Conroy said that Watters did not actually mention the jury, and that Trump added that himself. 

The prosecution asked for the removal of the 10 posts, with Conroy saying the court should "remind him that incarceration is an option should it be necessary." 

Trump attorney Todd Blanche argued, "President Trump does in fact know what the gag order allows him to do and not allow him to do. There was absolutely no willful violation of the gag order." 

Blanche said that the posts regarding Daniels and Cohen "were in direct response" to statements the two made and not about the trial, adding that Cohen had directly responded to one of Trump’s posts "politically," and that it was not about the case or his testimony. 

Blanche said that the posts regarding Daniels and Cohen "were in direct response" to statements the two made and not about the trial, adding that Cohen had directly responded to one of Trump’s posts "politically," and that it was not about the case or his testimony. 

Merchan asked that Blanche show a specific attack from Cohen or Daniels that prompted Trump’s posts, saying "There must’ve been a very recent attack to cause him to pull out a document that is six years old and is going to be used at trial." 

A heated exchange ensued, with Merchan raising his voice at Blanche, stating, "I'm asking the questions. I'm going to be the one who decides whether your client is in contempt." 

"I keep asking you over and over again for a specific answer, and I’m not getting an answer," Merchan said to Blanche. 

Blanche said that Trump believed he wasn’t violating the gag order, to which Merchan responded, "How do I know that’s his position? Are you testifying under oath that that’s his position?" 

"I'm not testifying, I'm making argument," Blanche replied. 

"It's your client's position that when he reposts, he did not believe he was violating the gag order. I’d like to hear that. Or you just want me to accept it because you’re saying it?" Merchan said to Blanche. 

During an exchange about the Watters post, Merchan asked, "Your client manipulated what was said and put it in quotes, am I right?" 

"I wouldn’t use the word manipulation your honor," Blanche responded. "But the rest of the quote was not part of the quote." 

"This is something that was said on TV and your client had to type it out. He had to sit there, use quotation marks, the shift key and type everything out and then add those additional words," the judge said. 

During the exchange, Merchan told Blanche, "You’re losing all credibility with the court." 

During Thursday’s hearing, Blanche requested the prosecution provide a list of the first three witnesses in the trial. Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass declined in this case, saying, "Mr. Trump has been tweeting about the witnesses. We’re not telling him who the witnesses are," according to Politico.  

“I can’t fault them for that,” Merchan said. Blanche offered to order Trump to avoid tweeting about the witnesses, to which Merchan said, "I don’t think you can make that representation." 

"I’m not going to order them to do it," Merchan said of the prosecution. 

This is a breaking story and will be updated.

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