Trump “in disbelief” as lawyer admits he went out of his way to bash witnesses

A lawyer for former President Donald Trump insisted at a contempt hearing Thursday that his client’s comments on jurors and witnesses do not run afoul of a gag order, even as he conceded that the Republican candidate is not merely responding to attacks but actively seeking out opportunities to spout off on his trial.

Prosecutors accuse Trump of violating the gag order in his Manhattan criminal case an additional four times, citing his praise of David Pecker, former publisher of the National Enquirer, as a “nice guy” and his attack on jurors as being “95 percent Democrats” rapidly picked up from “a purely Democrat area.” Following a hearing last month, Trump also exited the courtroom, where he’s being tried on charges of falsifying business records to cover up hush payments, and approached reporters to share an attack on Michael Cohen, his former fixer. “When they are going to look at all the lies Cohen did in the last trial,” Trump said.

Judge Juan Merchan, who fined the former president $9,000 earlier in the week for previous violations — and raised the prospect of jail time for future offenses — said Thursday that Trump had gone out of his way to attack a witness.

“It was your client who went down to that holding area and stood in front of the press and started to speak.” Merchan told Trump attorney Todd Blanche. “He went to the press. He didn’t need to go in that direction.”

“I agree with that,” Blanche responded, drawing what The New York Times described as a “large laugh in the overflow room.”

Trump did not appear to enjoy that particular exchange. After his lawyer agreed with the judge, “Trump shot around and glared at his own lawyer in disbelief, his mouth hanging open,” ABC News reported. “He then turned back around to face forward, repeatedly shaking his head no.”

The hearing concluded without a ruling, but Merchan indicated that he was likely to find Trump in violation of his gag order once again, appearing most disturbed by his comments on the jury.

Prosecutors are not yet asking for any jail time, seeking to minimize any disruption to the ongoing trial. But they are seeking more purposes, with Christopher Conroy of the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office saying Trump’s comments on witnesses and jurors create an “air of menace” that is “corrosive” to the cause of justice, according to NBC News.