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Judge Warns of Jail Sentence for Trump Over Gag Order Violation

Manhattan court Judge Juan Merchan has warned former President Donald Trump of a potential jail sentence if he continues to violate a gag order imposed on him.

The judge fined Trump $1,000 for an additional violation but expressed doubts about the effectiveness of fines in deterring further violations.

Trump is facing trial in Manhattan on 34 felony counts of falsifying business records, with prosecutors alleging more than a dozen violations of the gag order.

Merchan reiterated the seriousness of the violations and stated that the court would have to consider a jail sentence if the violations persist, despite Trump and his defense team arguing that the gag order violates his First Amendment rights.

The key points from the testimony are:

The $130,000 payment made by Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen to porn actress Stormy Daniels in October 2016 was at the center of the testimony. Prosecutors allege that Trump’s company falsely recorded these payments as legal fees in their business records, to conceal the reimbursement to Cohen.

Witnesses testified that the payments to Cohen were made from Trump’s account, rather than being recorded as legal expenses. Allen Weisselberg, a Trump Organization executive, instructed an employee to take notes on reimbursing Cohen $420,000, including a base amount plus taxes and a bonus.

However, the witnesses also stated that Trump did not direct the payments to be recorded as legal fees, and was not involved in those discussions. The Trump Organization employee who recorded the payments as legal expenses said it was his own decision to do so.

Prosecutors are building their case toward having Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen testify as a key witness. Cohen previously pleaded guilty to federal charges related to the hush money payments. Overall, the testimony suggests the Trump Organization may have intentionally mischaracterized the payments to Cohen but did not directly implicate Trump himself in that decision.

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