NEW YORK (NEWSnet/AP) – Judge Juan M. Merchan is considering whether Donald Trump violated a gag order by making social media posts about witnesses in the hush money trial under progress in Manhattan.

The judge called a break after arguments from attorneys on both sides.

During the hearing that started Tuesday's session, prosecutors cited 10 posts on Trump’s social media account and campaign website that they said breached the order, which bars him from making public statements about witnesses in the case.

Prosecutors are seeking a $1,000 fine — the maximum allowed by law — for each of the first three alleged violations; no specific punishment request for the others.

Fighting the proposed fines, Todd Blanche presented the key defense argument on this matter: that Trump was just responding to others’ comments in the course of political speech.

Blanch explained that on the Truth Social platform, revealing that people working with Trump will pick out articles they think his followers would like to see and then repost them under his name. He then argued that reposting a news article, as was done with some of the posts at issue, doesn’t violate the gag order.

Blanche insisted that Trump “is being very careful to comply” with the gag order.

Merchan quickly replied: “You’re losing all credibility.”


Background on the Case


Jury selection for the "hush money" case took place last week. Monday's session included opening statements, and ended during testimony for the first witness, former National Enquirer Publisher David Pecker. He is expected to return to the witness stand Tuesday.

This case, formally known as People of the State of New York v. Donald J. Trump, is the first of four criminal investigations pending against the former president to go to trial.

The 34 felony counts of falsifying business records involve a series of incidents and conversations that took place when Trump ran in 2016 for what became a successful election attempt to the White House. He has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

Tuesday's session will conclude about 2 p.m., which the judge announced ahead of time to allow for Passover holiday observances.

Media Coverage Rules


New York state rules do not allow TV cameras during courtroom hearings; pool photographers are allowed in only for a few minutes each day before the session gets started.

There is an overflow room where news media can watch the proceedings live via monitor, but visitors are prohibited from recording and photography in the overflow space.

One person was escorted, in handcuffs, out of the overflow room Tuesday morning after a disturbance in that area. Earlier on Tuesday, two journalists were expelled from the area for breaking rules prohibiting recording and photography in the overflow room, according to court officials. 

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