Trump’s Legal Woes Deepen: Jail Threat Looms Over Gag Order Violation as Prosecutors Target Key Transactions

Trump's Legal Woes Deepen: Jail Threat Looms Over Gag Order Violation as Prosecutors Target Key Transactions

New York City, NY: On Tuesday, Donald Trump goes back to his hush money hearing. He could go to jail for breaking the gag order again, and prosecutors are getting ready to call famous witnesses in the last few weeks of the case.

There are still people who haven’t taken the stand, but they will soon. These include Stormy Daniels, the porn actor who says she had a sexual encounter with Trump, and Michael Cohen, the former Trump lawyer and personal fixer who prosecutors say paid her to stay quiet in the last few weeks of the 2016 presidential campaign.

Monday, the jury heard from two witnesses. One was a former controller for the Trump Organization. He gave a dry but important account of how the company reimbursed payments that were allegedly meant to keep embarrassing stories from coming out and then recorded them as legal fees in a way that Manhattan prosecutors say is illegal.

Mueller’s team got important information from Jeffrey McConney’s evidence that helped them reveal what they say was a cover-up of transactions in Trump’s business records to protect his presidential campaign during a crucial time in the race. It mostly dealt with Cohen’s payment of $130,000 to Daniels and his subsequent repayment.

The witnesses, McConney and another, said that the refund checks came from Trump’s personal bank account. Even though the jury saw the checks and other paperwork, prosecutors did not get any testimony on Monday that showed Trump personally ordering that the payments be recorded as legal fees, which they say was meant to be misleading.

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During cross-examination, McConney admitted that Trump never asked him to record the reimbursements as legal fees or talked to him about the issue. Another witness, Deborah Tarasoff, who is in charge of paying bills for the Trump Organization, said that she did not get Trump’s permission to write the checks in question.

Judge Juan M. Merchan gave Trump a strong warning that if he broke a gag order again, which said he couldn’t say anything hurtful about witnesses, jurors, or other people involved in the case outside of court, he could go to jail.

Trump has been fined twice since the trial started last month for breaking the gag order. The $1,000 fine he got on Monday is the second time. He paid a $9,000 fine last week, $1,000 for each of the nine rules he broke.

“It appears that the $1,000 fines are not serving as a deterrent. Therefore going forward, this court will have to consider a jail sanction,” Merchan said before jurors were brought into the courtroom. Trump’s statements, the judge added, “threaten to interfere with the fair administration of justice and constitute a direct attack on the rule of law. I cannot allow that to continue.”

In an interview with the TV station Real America’s Voice on April 22, Trump criticized how quickly the jury was chosen and said, without any proof, that it was full of Democrats. This is the latest violation.

“The last thing I want to do is put you in jail,” Merchan said. “You are the former president of the United States and possibly the next president as well. There are many reasons why incarceration is truly a last resort for me. To take that step would be disruptive to these proceedings.”

The prosecution is still building up evidence against Cohen, who pleaded guilty to federal charges related to the hush money payments. He is going to be cross-examined very hard by the defense lawyers who want to make him look less trustworthy to the jury.

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