Trump Faces Fresh Contempt Hearing as Hush Money Trial Resumes

Two days after a judge slapped Donald Trump with a $9,000 fine for violating a gag order, the former president faces a new contempt hearing Thursday over four more comments that prosecutors claim also breached the order intended to stop him from attacking jurors, witnesses, and others connected to his hush money trial.

The four alleged violations happened before Judge Juan Merchan warned Tuesday that the court “will not tolerate continued willful violations of its lawful orders” and would, if necessary, “impose an incarceratory punishment.” Prosecutors are asking for a new $4,000 fine—$1,000 for each alleged breach—though it’s not yet clear when Merchan will rule on the issue.

On the weekly day-long break from the trial Wednesday, Trump wheeled out a favorite insult to publicly criticize Merchan. “There is no crime. I have a crooked judge,” Trump told supporters at a rally in Wisconsin. “He’s a totally conflicted judge.”

As well as the new contempt hearing, we’ll also be hearing more testimony Thursday from Keith Davidson, the attorney who represented two women who claimed to have had affairs with Trump (which Trump denies): Playboy model Karen McDougal and porn star Stormy Daniels.

The prosecution claims that hush-money payments were used to bury embarrassing stories about Trump during his 2016 presidential campaign. Last week, former AMI chief and National Enquirer publisher David Pecker testified about the so-called “catch and kill” scheme used to stop the sordid stories from coming to light—a fear that was exacerbated by the emergence of the Access Hollywood tape in which Trump boasted about groping women.

Michael Cohen, Trump’s onetime lawyer and personal “fixer,” paid Daniels $130,000 to keep her claims of a 2006 affair with Trump under wraps. When Trump’s company reimbursed Cohen, the prosecution claims the former president falsified business records to hide the purpose of the payment. Trump has pleaded not guilty to 34 felony counts.

Davidson on Tuesday told jurors about how the deals came to be and explained that Cohen initially didn’t make the Daniels payment. When asked why he thought the payment was being delayed, Davidson said: “I thought he was trying to kick the can down the road until after the election.”

It’s not yet clear when we’ll be hearing from Cohen, a star witness for the prosecution.

“The next big peak in this trial will be the appearance of Cohen,” John Coffee, a professor at Columbia Law School, tells The Daily Beast. “I think they want to put a number of witnesses on to make it all clear that Cohen is surrounded by a stream of players and he’s just part of an assembly line. They don’t want to give Cohen the ability to look like he could have made this all up.”

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