Trump trial live updates: Prosecutors ask judge to again fine Trump for contempt

Written by on May 2, 2024

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(NEW YORK) — Former President Donald Trump is on trial in New York City, where he is facing felony charges related to a 2016 hush money payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels. It marks the first time in history that a former U.S. president has been tried on criminal charges.

Trump last April pleaded not guilty to a 34-count indictment charging him with falsifying business records in connection with a hush money payment his then-attorney Michael Cohen made to Daniels in order to boost his electoral prospects in the 2016 presidential election.

Here’s how the news is developing:

May 02, 10:56 AM
Jurors shown final contract for Stormy Daniels agreement

Jurors were shown the final Stormy Daniels contract, which prohibited her from making public statements about her alleged affair with Trump.

“That’s essentially part of the nondisclosure aspect of the agreement,” her then-attorney, Keith Davidson, told jurors after reading aloud from the contract.

The contract stated that Daniel’s would owe $1 million for each breach of contract, though Davidson said that portion of the contract was likely unenforceable.

Davidson testified that Michael Cohen requested the $1 million penalty be added to the contract.

Jurors were shown signed copies of the agreement, which was signed by Daniels, Cohen, and Davidson.

The signature line for “David Dennison” — the pseudonym used for Donald Trump — was never signed by Trump. In one version of the contract, Cohen signed for “Dennison.”

Davidson testified that he made $10,000 for negotiating the contract.

May 02, 10:46 AM
Lawyer resumes testimony on Stormy Daniels hush payment

Following the contempt hearing, Keith Davidson, the former lawyer for Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, has returned to the stand to resume his testimony.

When Davidson stepped off the witness stand on Tuesday, he testified about the difficulty in getting the $130,000 payment from then-Trump attorney Michael Cohen for Stormy Daniel’s hush money agreement.

Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass resumed the direct examination by asking Davidson about a phone call between himself, Michael Cohen, and National Enquirer editor Dylan Howard about the payment.

“That conversation took place because there was difficulty in communications with Michael Cohen and I had lost trust in what he was telling me, and Dylan came in as a mediator,” Davidson said. “I believed he was not telling me the truth … about the delays in funding.”

Jurors then looked at an email from Cohen where he flagged to Davidson that the wire would be coming from an account for Essential Consultants LLC.

On Tuesday, jurors heard from a banker who described Cohen’s rushed effort to create a bank account for Essential Consultants LLC, which prosecutors say was a shell company created for the Daniels payment.

Emails and texts involving Cohen, Davidson and Howard, displayed to the jury, indicate the hush payment was finalized with the wire transfer of $130,000 on October 27, 2016 — 12 days before the 2016 election.

May 02, 10:31 AM
Contempt hearing ends without immediate ruling

After Judge Merchan asked defense attorney Todd Blanche to explain Trump’s remarks about the jury, Blanche argued that Trump’s remarks referenced the political nature of the trial.

“We very much believe that this is a political persecution and that this is a political trial,” Blanche argued.

“I’m not accepting your argument,” the judge said. “He spoke about the jury. And he said the jury was 95% Democrats and the jury had been rushed through, and the implication being this is not a fair jury.”

The judge concluded the contempt hearing without issuing a ruling on whether Trump’s four recent statements violated the case’s limited gag order.

Testimony in the trial was then set to resume.

May 02, 10:24 AM
Defense says Trump was responding to Cohen’s remarks

Judge Merchan told Trump attorney Todd Blanche that he is “not terribly concerned” about Trump’s remarks about David Pecker being a “nice guy.”

“I am not terribly concerned about that one,” Merchan said during the hearing on whether Trump should again he held in contempt for allegedly violating the case’s limited gag order.

Blanche then turned to Trump’s remarks about witness Michael Cohen, displaying exhibits that included screenshots of four posts on Cohen’s X account.

“There is repeated attacks on President Trump’s candidacy for president by Michael Cohen,” Blanche said about Cohen’s posts on X and remarks on TikTok as well as on his podcast.

“You made your point,” Merchan responded after Blanche spent a few minutes highlighting Cohen’s public comments.

“Mr. Cohen has started going on TikTok nightly, literally making money,” Blanche added. “He actively encourages folks to give him money.”

May 02, 10:14 AM
Trump glares at his attorney after he agrees with judge

At one point in the ongoing contempt hearing, Trump appeared to show frustration with his own attorney during arguments regarding Trump’s remarks to the press.

When Judge Merchan said that “nobody is forcing” Trump to make remarks in the hallways, Trump attorney Todd Blanche surprisingly responded, “I agree.”

At that moment, Trump shot around and glared at his own lawyer in disbelief, his mouth hanging open. He then turned back around to face forward, repeatedly shaking his head no.

“What is happening in this trial is no surprise to anyone,” Merchan said of the media attention. “It is not surprising that we have press here.”

May 02, 10:04 AM
Defense argues Trump’s comments were ‘completely neutral

Defense attorney Todd Blanche argued against accusations that Trump again violated the case’ limited gag order, saying that Trump was attempting to respond to political attacks.

Appearing to cite President Joe Biden’s remarks at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner this weekend, Blanche said, “He mocked President Trump. He said, ‘Donald had had a few tough days recently — you might call it stormy weather,” Blanche said, arguing Trump should be able to respond to that remark but can’t because of the gag order.

Merchan pushed back on that argument, telling Blanche that Trump is allowed to respond to remarks by Biden.

“Trump can’t respond to that in a way that he wants to because of this order,” Blanche argued.

Blanche also argued that Trump’s remarks about David Pecker were “completely neutral” comments about Trump’s longtime friend.

“He is talking … about a man he had known for decades, who he was friends with for decades. There is no threat in what President Trump said,” Blanche said.

Blanche also attempted to put some blame on the press for asking Trump questions prompting his remarks. “He can’t just say ‘no comment’ repeatedly, he’s running for president,” he said.

Merchan told Blanche that Trump’s remarks about Pecker impacts other witnesses, because it signals that Trump could make remarks about other particpants.

May 02, 9:53 AM
Prosecutors ask judge to again fine Trump for contempt

Prosecutor Christopher Conroy argued that Trump’s remarks about witness Michael Cohen, Trump’s former attorney — including Trump’s statements in the courtroom hallway after opening statements last week — were made to “affect and disrupt” the proceedings at its “most critical time.”

“His statements are corrosive to this proceeding and to the fair administration of justice,” Conroy said.

“We are not yet seeking jail,” Conroy said about the four alleged violations, citing the desire to prevent disruptions to the proceedings.

He asked Merchan to fine Trump the maximum of $1,000 for violation, totaling $4,000, following the identical fines earlier this week for nine previous violations.

Defense lawyer Todd Blanche argued that the alleged violations were not willful violations of the court’s limited gag order.

Blanche said Trump’s commentary reflects his defense to “political attacks” — and as a candidate for president, he is entitled to respond to “multiple and repeated attacks.”

“Part of the campaign takes place outside of this courtroom,” Blanche said.

May 02, 9:45 AM
Prosecutor calls Trump’s remarks ‘deliberate and calculated’

Prosecutor Christopher Conroy told Judge Merchan during the contempt hearing that the limited gag order exists because of Trump’s “persistent and escalating rhetoric” regarding trial participants, adding that Trump had violated the gag order nine times already.

“He has done it again here,” Conroy said.

“That is what the order forbids, and he did it anyway,” Conroy said about Trump’s remarks about the composition of the jury.

Conroy then turned his attention to Trump’s remarks about witness and former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker last Thursday at a construction site in midtown Manhattan, in which he said, “He’s been very nice. I mean, he’s been — David’s been very nice. A nice guy.”

“It was deliberate and calculated,” Conroy said, describing the remarks as a “deliberate shots across the bow” to participants in the case.

“The defendant thinks the rules should be different for him,” Conroy says about Trump’s remarks about witnesses like Michael Cohen and David Pecker.

Trump has defended some of his commentary about the trial as a recitation of what he sees in media coverage. But Conroy said that Trump’s rhetoric carries an “air of menace that is substantially different” than a news report.

“He places this process and proceeding here in jeopardy,” Conroy said.

May 02, 9:36 AM
Contempt hearing underway

Judge Juan Merchan has begun this morning’s contempt hearing in which he will determine whether to hold Trump in contempt and fine him for making four additional out-of-court statements about the jury and known witnesses in the trial, after the judge on Tuesday cited and fined him for nine such violations.

Prosecutor Christopher Conroy, speaking for the Manhattan district attorney’s office during the contempt proceeding, said he does not plan to play the videos of the alleged violations.

May 02, 9:23 AM
Trump arrives in courtroom

Former President Donald Trump has arrived in the courtroom for today’s proceedings.

Proceedings get underway today with a second contempt hearing on Trump’s alleged violation of the case’ limited gag order, before testimony in the trial resumes.

May 02, 7:36 AM
Day will begin with second contempt hearing

Two days after Judge Juan Merchan held former President Trump in criminal contempt for nine violations of the limited gag order that prohibits statements about witnesses and others involved in the case, the judge will hold a hearing this morning to determine whether to hold Trump in contempt again and fine him $4,000 for making four additional out-of-court statements about the jury and known witnesses in the trial.

Judge Merchan on Tuesday fined the former president $1,000 for each of the nine violations — the maximum allowable fine under state law — and threatened that future violations could result in jail time.

Testimony in the trial is scheduled to resume following the conclusion of this morning’s hearing.

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