NY v Trump criminal trial begins its 3rd week as former president accused of gag order violations

30 April 2024
NY v Trump criminal trial begins its 3rd week as former president accused of gag order violations


The historic and unprecedented criminal trial of former President Trump is set to resume for its third week Tuesday.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg charged the former president with 34 counts of falsifying business records in the first degree.

Trump pleaded not guilty.

So far, opening statements have been delivered by Trump’s defense attorneys and prosecutors from the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.


Former President Trump awaits the start of proceedings at Manhattan Criminal Court, Monday, April 22, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura, Pool)

Trump defense attorneys say the former president is “innocent.”

Prosecutors must try to convince the jury not only that Trump falsified the business records related to hush money payments, but also that he did so in furtherance of another crime: conspiracy to promote or prevent election.

Prosecutors will try to prove that the alleged conspiracy was to conceal a conspiracy to unlawfully promote his candidacy in 2016.

“Any two or more persons who conspire to promote or prevent the election of any person to a public office by unlawful means and which conspiracy is acted upon by one or more of the parties thereto, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor,” New York Law 17-152 reads.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg speaks during a news conference on March 7, 2024, in New York. (Barry Williams/New York Daily News/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

Typically, on their own, falsifying business records and conspiracy to promote or prevent election are viewed as misdemeanors.

So far, the prosecution has called three witnesses – former American Media Inc. CEO and former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker. Pecker testified about an alleged “catch & kill” practice of buying negative stories about Trump, regardless of their legitimacy, and burying them to protect his reputation. Prosecutors are trying to convince the jury that Pecker’s actions were done with the intention of influencing the 2016 presidential election.

Pecker, though, testified that he worked with Michael Cohen in his capacity as Trump’s personal attorney.


On Friday, prosecutors called Rhona Graff to the stand for questioning. Graff is a former executive assistant to Trump and a senior vice president of the Trump Organization. She worked at Trump Tower for decades prior to Trump’s presidency.

Later, they called Gary Farro, who, in 2016, was a senior managing director at First Republic Bank.

Meanwhile, New York Judge Juan Merchan, who is presiding over the trial, imposed a gag order on the former president, which prohibits him from making statements about court staff and potential witnesses.

Judge Juan Merchan presides as prosecutor Joshua Steinglass questions David Pecker during former President Trump’s criminal trial on April 23, 2024, in this courtroom sketch. (Reuters/Jane Rosenberg )

Bragg has alleged Trump violated the order at least 14 times and is asking the judge to fine the former president $1,000 per violation. They also want Trump to be held in contempt of court.

Trump attorneys argue the gag order is a violation of the former president’s First Amendment rights.

The judge is expected to hold a hearing on the gag order and alleged violations on Thursday. Merchan has not yet ruled.

In documents filed last week, prosecutor Christopher Conroy outlined four additional alleged violations that happened when Trump made statements to the press between his court appearances. The prosecutor pointed to comments Trump made to a local Pennsylvania news station about Cohen, who is expected to testify at trial later on.

“Well, Michael Cohen is a convicted liar, and he’s got no credibility whatsoever. He was a lawyer, and you rely on your lawyers. But Michael Cohen was a convicted liar. He was a lawyer for many people, not just me. And he got in trouble because of things outside of what he did for me, largely, it was essentially all because what he did in terms of the campaign. I don’t think there was anything wrong with that with the charges that they made. But what he did is he did some pretty bad things, I guess, with banking or whatever if that was a personal thing to him,” Trump said on Monday.


Conroy called this a “knowing and willful statement” that violated Merchan’s gag order. The prosecutor also noted statements Trump made about Pecker.

“He’s been very nice. I mean, he’s been – David’s been very nice. A nice guy,” Trump said on Thursday.

At trial, Conroy told the judge that Trump was sending a message to Pecker, instructing him to “be nice” or else Trump would use his platform to “say things like I said about Cohen.”

David Pecker is questioned during former President Trump’s criminal trial on April 23, 2024, in this courtroom sketch. (Reuters/Jane Rosenberg )

Trump is required to attend every day of his criminal trial.

Because of this, last Thursday, Trump was forced to miss arguments at the Supreme Court on the issue of presidential immunity and whether he is immune from prosecution on charges stemming from Special Counsel Jack Smith’s 2020 election interference case. Trump pleaded not guilty to all charges.


Trump had requested to attend, but Merchan rejected his request.

On Friday, Trump missed celebrating the birthday of his wife, former first lady Melania Trump,

Barron Trump, stands with his parents, President Trump and first lady Melania Trump, on the South Lawn of the White House on Aug. 27, 2020. (AP Newsroom)

Trump wished her a “very happy birthday” on Friday morning from the courthouse.

“I want to start by wishing my wife Melania a very happy birthday. It’d be nice to be with her, but I’m in a courthouse for a rigged trial,” Trump said Friday.

Meanwhile, Trump has requested to attend his youngest son Barron Trump’s high school graduation on May 17. Merchan has not yet made a decision on whether the former president can attend to celebrate his son. The judge said he would consider the issue later based on how the trial is going.

The court does not meet on Wednesdays. The former president is expected to hold campaign events Wednesday.

Source: foxnews

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