Donald Trump speaks to reporters in a Manhattan criminal courthouse on 2 May. (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Trump blames Cohen for breaking gag order as judge fires back at jury comments

Judge Juan Merchan grew frustrated with Trump’s attorneys’ defence of allegations that he breached a trial gag order four more times

Alex Woodward |

The judge presiding over Donald Trump’s hush money trial fired back at his attorney’s attempts to dodge punishment for his comments about the jury – remarks that appear likely to violate a gag order that blocks him from public attacks about witnesses and jurors.

On Thursday, New York Justice Juan Merchan grew increasingly frustrated with arguments from defence attorney Todd Blanche, who claimed that the trial is “political persecution” and a “political trial” in a “jurisdiction” that is politically biased against the former president.

Judge Merchan cut him off.

“Did he violate the gag order? That’s what I want to know,” he said. “He spoke about the jury, right? And he said the jury was 95 per cent Democrats and the jury had been rushed through, and the implication that this was not a fair jury?”

Earlier this month, while awaiting the judge’s decision on whether to impose sanctions on previous gag order breaches, Manhattan prosecutors accused Mr Trump of violating the order four more times within just three days of the trial’s first week – including statements that were made right outside the court’s doors – and a statement that took aim at the jury that is now seated across from him.

On Tuesday, he was fined $9,000 for nine other violations and threatened with jailtime if he keeps it up.

Prosecutors are now asking the judge to fine him $1,000 for each of the four new alleged violations.

On 22 April, during a nearly nine-minute rant in the court hallway, Mr Trump said his former lawyer and trial witness Michael Cohen “wasn’t very good in a lot of ways in terms of representation” and that Cohen “got caught lying, pure lying” during Mr Trump’s civil fraud trial down the street.

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