Trump may have violated silence order by overturning guilty verdict

Donald Trump on Friday mentioned two witnesses in the criminal case against him while complaining about his conviction, comments that could violate the judge’s order of silence against him.

Representatives for Trump did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Trump’s comments about the witnesses. Judge Juan Merchan’s order barred Trump from “making or directing others to make public statements about reasonably known or blocked witnesses regarding their potential participation in the investigation or this criminal proceeding.”

Trump mentioned Robert Costello by name, a witness who testified on his behalf, during his speech at Trump Tower, and also spoke at length about his former lawyer Michael Cohen, a key witness whose name he did not use but who was clearly the person he was referring to.

Donald Trump speaks at Trump Tower on Friday.Julia Nikhinson/AP

“He was a highly qualified lawyer. Now I’m not allowed to use his name because of the silence, but you know he’s a sleazeball. Everybody knows it. It took me a while to figure that out,” Trump said, also pushing back on Cohen’s description of himself as a “fixer.” “He worked, but he wasn’t a fixer. He was a lawyer. You know they like to use the word fixer. He wasn’t a fixer. He was a lawyer at the time,” Trump said.

Trump praised Costello, a lawyer who was in talks to represent Cohen in 2018 and has since become a vocal critic of Cohen, as a “good man” who was mistreated by the judge during his test.

Merchan chastised Costello, a veteran New York defense attorney, outside the presence of the jury, for his lack of respect on the stand, including visibly and audibly reacting to the prosecution’s objections and Merchan’s decisions . “As a witness in my courtroom, if you don’t like my decisions, you don’t say, ‘Damn,'” Merchan told Costello. “You don’t look at me sideways and roll your eyes.” He warned him that if his behavior continued, he could be removed from the stand and his testimony could be expunged from the record.

Trump also appeared to make an indirect reference to Stormy Daniels, the adult film star who claims to have had a sexual relationship with Trump in 2006 and to whom Cohen paid $130,000 in hush money weeks before the 2016 election. referred to the prosecutor calling people “salacious” on the stand. “By the way, nothing ever happened. There was nothing,” Trump said, appearing to refer to Daniels’ claim.

Trump called the judge — who is not covered by the silence order — a “devil” and a “tyrant.”

Merchan fined Trump a total of $10,000 for repeated violations of the order barring him from discussing witnesses, jurors, court staff and individual prosecutors during the trial, and warned that future violations could potentially take him to prison.

“Mr. Trump, it’s important to understand that the last thing I want to do is put you in jail. You are the former president of the United States and maybe the next president as well,” Merchan said. The judge said Trump’s “deliberate and continued violations of this court’s orders threaten the administration of justice and constitute a direct attack on the rule of law. I cannot allow this to continue.”

It’s clear whether the judge’s stance will soften now that the testimony is over. One of the reasons he said he was imposing silence was fear that Trump’s remarks could influence witnesses, which is no longer an issue. The judge had also said during the trial that he might consider lifting the order regarding Cohen because Cohen had publicly criticized Trump during the trial. Cohen stopped doing it after the judge’s warning but sat down for an interview with MSNBC Thursday evening after the verdict.

Cohen praised the jury for finding Trump guilty on all 34 counts of falsifying business records. “It’s responsibility. This is exactly what America needs right now,” Cohen said. Trump is scheduled to be sentenced on July 11.

Trump made clear in his remarks Friday that he believed the silence order was still in effect, even though testimony had concluded. “I am under a silence, an ugly silence,” he said at one point, adding: “I am the leading candidate for president and I am under a veil. »

Representatives for the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office and the state court system did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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