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Trump Fined £9,000 for Contempt of Court in Hush Money Trial

Former US President Trump fined £9,000 for contempt of court, with warning of imprisonment if violation of gag order continues.

President Donald Trump listens during a meeting with members of the National Association of Police Organizations Leadership in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on July 31st, 2020.

Former U.S. President Donald Trump has been fined £9,000 for contempt of court by Justice Juan Merchan overseeing his criminal hush money trial. The judge warned of potential imprisonment if Trump persists in violating a gag order.

In a written order issued on Tuesday, Justice Merchan expressed concern that the fine might not suffice as a deterrent for the wealthy ex-president and regretted his inability to impose a higher penalty. 

Merchan reiterated that the court will not tolerate deliberate violations of its lawful orders.

The gag order was initially imposed by Merchan to prevent Trump from criticising witnesses and other involved parties in the trial. 

Trump was fined £1,000 for each of nine online statements deemed to have breached this order. Prosecutors identified 10 posts as potential violations.

Among the offending posts, made between April 10 and April 17, was one labelling Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen a “serial liar.” 

Cohen is expected to testify prominently in the trial. 

Another post quoted a Fox News pundit alleging the infiltration of “undercover liberal activists” into the jury. Merchan dismissed Trump’s argument that he should not be held accountable for “reposts” of material not authored by him.

Merchan will consider imposing further penalties for additional statements at a hearing scheduled for Thursday. 

Additionally, Trump has been ordered to remove the offending statements from his Truth Social account and campaign website by 2:15 p.m. EDT (1815 GMT).

Despite being asked to comment on the fine by reporters during a break, Trump remained silent. He has contended that the gag order violates his right to free speech. His lawyer, Todd Blanche, argued that the statements were responses to political attacks. 

However, Merchan noted the lack of evidence demonstrating that the witnesses had attacked Trump before he insulted them.

The £9,000 fine, payable by Friday, represents a relatively minor penalty for Trump, who has already posted £266.6 million in bonds while appealing civil judgments in two other cases. 

Nevertheless, the possibility of imprisonment looms, marking an unprecedented development in the trial of a former U.S. president.

It remains uncertain whether Trump would serve time in New York City’s Rikers Island jail or be subject to alternative arrangements, such as home confinement in his Trump Tower triplex, due to security concerns.

Trump, the Republican candidate in the 2024 presidential election, faces charges of falsifying business records to conceal a £130,000 payment to porn star Stormy Daniels in exchange for her silence regarding an alleged sexual encounter in 2006. 

Trump has pleaded not guilty and denied any involvement with Daniels, known legally as Stephanie Clifford.

Banker Garry Farro testified on Tuesday, asserting that Cohen utilised a shell company to transfer the £130,000 payment to Daniels’ lawyer. 

Outside the courthouse, roughly two dozen Trump supporters rallied, chanting his name and displaying banners reading “TRUMP 24.” The demonstration was organised by a local Republican group in response to Trump’s dissatisfaction with the lack of protest against the trial.

Trump is obliged to attend the trial, although he has expressed a desire to focus on his campaign ahead of a potential rematch with Democratic President Joe Biden in the November 5 election. 

This criminal case is one of four pending against Trump, potentially the only one to proceed to trial and yield a verdict before the election.

Chioma Kalu

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