May 30, 2024

The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office wants the judge overseeing the first trial against a former American president to start it off with a lunging attack, asking the court to personally sanction Donald Trump for his verbal onslaught against witnesses in the case.

Shortly after noon, Assistant District Attorney Christopher Conroy formally asked the judge to fine Trump “$1,000 for each post that violates the court order,” “direct the defendant to take down the offending posts,” and “remind him that further violations could result in jail time.” He then elicited laughter in the courtroom when he noted that one of the offensive posts was made “at 9:12 this morning.”

“It’s entirely possible it was done in this courthouse,” Conroy said.

In that Truth Social message to his followers, Trump shared a New York Post article and quoted its headline: “A serial perjurer will try to prove an old misdemeanor against Trump in an embarrassment for the New York legal system.”

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The judge did not immediately issue a ruling, instead breaking for lunch—but only after ominously staring at Trump while hearing prosecutors describe the language in several posts.

Joshua Steinglass, an assistant district attorney who led a previous tax fraud trial against the Trump Organization, had telegraphed the incoming request earlier during a long presentation on various issues Monday morning. He said the DA’s office would soon be “seeking order to show cause why defendant shouldn’t be held in contempt.”

If successful, the move would put Trump—who’s already fighting for his freedom—even further in the hole as he defends himself in the Stormy Daniels case.

Steinglass said Trump has “violated the court’s order not to make statements about foreseeable witnesses,” noting how the business tycoon keeps raging about some of the key players in the case: Stormy Daniels, the porn star he had sex with in 2006, and Michael Cohen, the former lawyer he employed to cut a hush money deal to keep her quiet during the 2016 election.

Prosecutors pointed to a post Trump made on his Truth Social media website after Daniels’ former lawyer trashed her on live TV during a jailhouse interview with MSNBC Tuesday night.

“Thank you to Michael Avenatti—for revealing the truth about two sleaze bags who have, with their lies and misrepresentations, cost our Country dearly!” Trump posted on Wednesday morning.

Prosecutors argued the post is just the latest example of Trump trying to hurt and intimidate witnesses, as he’s done during this and his other criminal cases.

“They have incurred the wrath of Trump supporters, a wrath fomented by these exact kinds of tweets,” Steinglass said.

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But prosecutors then hinted at a grander strategy at play here, signaling how the plan to eventually show jurors—whenever they’re finally chosen—that Trump’s threatening attitude undercuts his narrative that these people are merely trying to enjoy five minutes of fame for playing a historical role in potentially jailing a former president.

Steinglass said the mounting evidence of Trump’s ongoing behavior online should be submitted as evidence “to offset” the argument that they’re somehow self-interested and benefiting from testifying in this case.

New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan didn’t immediately rule on all of these issues.

But before potential jurors were even called into the courtroom, Merchan showed that Trump would indeed be held accountable for his public statements—at least by the jury.

“It’s hard to convince me something he tweeted out to millions of people—voluntarily—cannot be used in court,” Merchan said.

It’s unclear when or how exactly the DA’s office will be able to show jurors how Trump has spoken about certain witnesses. However, the judge did indicate that the jury would be able to see how Trump publicly defended and spoke highly of his one-time legal adviser, only to turn on him viciously once it looked like Cohen flipped on his former boss.

“The minute the defense says Michael Cohen is a liar, here he changes his story… that would very easily open the door,” Merchan said.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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