"You're losing all credibility": Judge shuts down Trump lawyer at brutal contempt hearing

Donald Trump’s continued posting of attacks on witnesses in his criminal trial is one piece of evidence that suggests he’s “angling” for jail time, prosecutors said Tuesday at a contempt hearing in Manhattan where the former president’s attorney was told that he was losing all credibility with the court after trying to defend his client’s actions.

Trump has repeatedly argued that he should not be subject to a gag order barring him from attacking witnesses and others, including Judge Juan Merchan and his family. He has also at times acted like that gag order doesn’t exist, appearing to cross the line in several recent posts on Truth Social in which he attacked Michael Cohen, Stormy Daniels and even prospective jurors.

At Tuesday’s hearing, defense attorney Todd Blanche — a day after delivering an opening statement that legal experts panned as harming his client’s interests — argued that such posts were “political” in nature and thus protected speech. He also maintained that Trump sharing an attack on jurors from Fox News personality Jesse Watters did not necessarily constitute violate such prohibitions, coming as it did in the form of a quote.

But that quote was modified, prosecutor Christopher Conroy said Tuesday. On his show, Watters had said that “undercover liberal activists” were “lying” to Judge Merchan; 40 minutes later, on Truth Social, Trump quoted that line and added to it, writing that the supposed activists were lying “to get on the Trump jury,” as MSNBC’s Katie Phang reported.

“What happened here was exactly what this order was meant to prevent, and the defendant doesn’t care,” Conroy said.

The revelation that Trump fabricated part of Watters’ quote did not go over well with Merchan. “Your client manipulated what was said and put it in quotes,” the judge noted, according to The New York Times. When Blanche later insisted that Trump and his legal team “are trying to comply” with the court’s gag order, Merchan couldn’t take it anymore, losing patience with the claim that reposting others’ attacks, even modified ones, doesn’t violate that order.

“I hate to keep coming back to this, but you’re not offering me anything to support your argument,” Merchan said, adding moments later: “You’re losing all credibility with the court.”

Merchan did not rule Tuesday morning on what if any punishment Trump should receive if he’s found to have violated the gag order, although a ruling could come later in the day. Prosecutors want Trump to be forced to delete posts and pay a $1,000 fine for each violation. They are not seeking jail time, with Conroy suggesting Tuesday that Trump might well be “angling” for such an outcome, presumably to bolster his claims of martyrdom.

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