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Judge Merchan warns Trump of sanctions for violating expanded gag order

The presumptive GOP nominee is playing a dangerous game before his jury in the hush money case is even selected.


Just after earning his latest gag order, Donald Trump has already provoked the judge not only to expand his order but to explicitly threaten sanctions against the former president. Now, the prospect of imprisonment hangs over the criminal defendant before a jury has even been selected in the hush money case.

Judge Juan Merchan extended the order Monday to cover family members of the judge and Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg. The extension followed Trump’s baseless and dangerous statements about Merchan’s daughter. 

“The average observer, must now, after hearing Defendant’s recent attacks, draw the conclusion that if they become involved in these proceedings, even tangentially, they should worry not only for themselves, but for their loved ones as well,” Merchan explained. He added that such concerns “will undoubtedly interfere with the fair administration of justice and constitutes a direct attack on the Rule of Law itself.” 

Of course, Trump has long attacked the rule of law. But the question is what consequences, if any, that brings. That’s where the end of Merchan’s order comes into play. The judge concluded that Trump “is hereby warned that any violation of this Order will result in sanctions” under the Judiciary Law, which carries the punishment of fines and imprisonment. 

We saw what happened in the civil fraud case when Trump violated his gag order multiple times. Judge Arthur Engoron threatened imprisonment but only handed down relatively low-level fines for a person with Trump's financial resources.

Merchan seems less inclined to mess around. With jury selection set for April 15, we’ll see whether and how Trump tests the judge — and how Merchan responds. 

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