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Judge fines Trump $9,000 for gag order violations

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(The Center Square) – A judge on Tuesday fined former President Donald Trump $9,000 for repeatedly violating a gag order in his criminal hush money case in New York.

Judge Juan Merchan ordered nine $1,000 fines for nine of Trump’s posts to his social media platform, Truth Social.

Merchan’s gag order, ordered in March before the trial began, remains in place.

Trump, the nation’s 45th president, is prohibited from making or directing others to make public statements about witnesses concerning their potential participation or about counsel in the case or about court staff, district attorney staff or family members of staff.

Merchen ruled that Trump “violated the Order by making social media posts about known witnesses pertaining to their participation in this criminal proceeding and by making public statements about jurors in this criminal proceeding.”

The judge said he was mindful of the former president’s rights.

“This Court is keenly aware of, and protective of, Defendant’s First Amendment rights, particularly given his candidacy for the office of President of the United States,” Merchen wrote in the order. “It is critically important that Defendant’s legitimate free speech rights not be curtailed, that he be able to fully campaign for the office which he seeks and that he be able to respond and defend himself against political attacks. For that reason, this Court exercised discretion when it crafted the Expanded Order and delayed issuing it until the eve of trial. The Order is narrowly tailored to prevent risk to the fair administration of justice and it clearly and unambiguously identifies the limited way in which Defendant’s speech is restricted.”

At a courthouse news conference on Tuesday, Trump called the gag order “totally unconstitutional.”

In a post on social media, Trump said the judge should be tossed from the case.

“This Judge has taken away my Constitutional Right to FREE SPEECH,” Trump wrote. “I am the only Presidential Candidate in History to be GAGGED. This whole ‘Trial’ is RIGGED, and by taking away my FREEDOM OF SPEECH, THIS HIGHLY CONFLICTED JUDGE IS RIGGING THE PRESIDENTIAL OF 2024 ELECTION. ELECTION INTERFERENCE!!!”

Trump, 77, is the first former U.S. president to be charged with a felony.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg has charged Trump with 34 counts of falsifying business records related to money paid to Daniels and another woman, former Playboy model Karen McDougal. Bragg has alleged Trump broke New York law when he falsified with the intent to commit or conceal another crime.

Prosecutors allege Trump falsified internal records kept by his company, hiding the true nature of payments that involve Daniels ($130,000), McDougal ($150,000), and Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen ($420,000). Prosecutors allege the money was logged as legal expenses, not reimbursements. Both Cohen and Daniels are expected to testify.

Trump has pleaded not guilty and denied the sexual encounters.

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