Fact check: Another week, another round of false Trump claims about his trial

Former President Donald Trump continues to make false claims about his New York trial.

Trump frequently speaks to media cameras before entering and after exiting the Manhattan courtroom where he is facing charges of falsifying business records.
He has peppered his hallway remarks with inaccurate assertions about a variety of subjects — most frequently about the trial itself.

Here’s a fact check of four false claims and one misleading claim he made about the trial in his courthouse comments last week. (And here’s a link to our fact check of his courthouse falsehoods from the week prior.)

Trump’s right to testify

Trump falsely claimed after leaving the courtroom Thursday afternoon that he is not allowed to testify in his own defense – then acknowledged Friday morning that he is indeed allowed to testify.

Trump told reporters Thursday, “I’m not allowed to testify. I’m under a gag order. I guess, right?” He added, “I’m not allowed to testify, because this judge, who’s totally conflicted, has me under an unconstitutional gag order.” He continued by complaining that he’s “not allowed to talk” even when others attack him, then said again, “So I’m not allowed to testify because of an unconstitutional gag order.”

Facts First: Trump’s claim is false. As he noted the next day, he is allowed to testify at the trial; the decision is entirely up to him. Judge Juan Merchan’s gag order, which narrowly restricts his out-of-court speech, does not in any way stop him from testifying. The gag order also does not broadly prevent Trump from talking. He is permitted to speak to the media, speak at campaign events, attack President Joe Biden and other political opponents, and even attack Merchan and the Manhattan district attorney behind the case.

On Friday morning, Trump told reporters as he entered the courtroom: “No, it won’t stop me from testifying. The gag order’s not for testify[ing]. The gag order stops me from talking about people, and responding, when they say things about me.” When court proceedings began shortly after, Merchan told Trump that he has the “absolute” right to testify and that the gag order “does not prohibit you from taking the stand and it does not limit or minimize what you can say.”

Rather, the gag order forbids Trump from three specific categories of speech:

1) Speaking publicly or directing others to speak publicly about known or foreseeable witnesses, specifically about their participation in the case;

2) Speaking publicly or directing others to speak publicly about prosecutors (other than Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg), members of the district attorney’s staff and the court staff, or family members of any of these people including Bragg, if those statements are made with the intent to interfere with the case;

3) Speaking publicly or directing others to speak publicly about jurors or prospective jurors.

Trump has repeatedly made the gag order sound far broader than it is. He claimed at a Wednesday campaign rally in Michigan that “I’m not even supposed to be, I would say, talking to you, because he gagged me” – though the gag order actually says nothing to prevent him from making a campaign speech.

Merchan wrote in the gag order: “Defendant has a constitutional right to speak to the American voters freely, and to defend himself publicly.”

Trump’s public stance on whether he will testify has varied. After declaring before the trial started that “I’m testifying,” he said in a television interview last week that he would testify “if it’s necessary.” Thursday was the first time he has publicly claimed he is not permitted to testify.

Trump and bail

Trump said: “New York City is a violent city; it’s become violent with the cashless bail. I’m the only one who has to put up bail.”

Facts First: Trump’s claim is false. Like many other New York defendants whose alleged crimes are non-violent, he didn’t have to put up bail. After his arraignment in 2023, he was released on his own recognizance — in other words, without having to post any cash.

Trump did have to post a $200,000 bond in his separate election subversion case in Fulton County, Georgia (contributing 10% himself and working with a bail bonds company to cover the rest), but his clear Friday suggestion was that he is being treated uniquely harshly in New York. He was released on his own recognizance in his two federal criminal cases — one in Washington, DC, over his attempts to overturn the 2020 election, and one in Florida over his post-presidency retention of classified documents.

Trump’s assertion that New York City is “a violent city” is subjective. It’s worth noting, though, that violent crime in the city has plummeted over the last two decades, that the city has long had lower crime rates than many other big and small communities around the country, and that the impact of New York state bail reforms on the city’s recent crime levels is disputed.

Trump’s campaign schedule

Trump continued Friday to complain that the New York trial is preventing him from being on the campaign trail. This time, he said: “We were already marked down — months ago, we were marked down to be in Georgia today, where we’re doing very well at the polls, by the way. But that’s where we were supposed to be. We’re supposed to be in Ohio tomorrow and we’re supposed to be in Florida on the next day, doing — campaigning, essentially campaigning. So now I have to go through this trial day after day.”

Facts First: Trump’s claim that the trial is preventing him from having campaign events this weekend is false. The trial is not being held on weekends (or on Wednesdays), so he was free to campaign wherever he wants on Saturday and the day after — and he was planning to fly to Florida. Trump was scheduled to headline a closed-door Republican National Committee fundraising luncheon at his Mar-a-Lago club on Saturday, and he attended the Miami Grand Prix Formula One race on Sunday.

There is no apparent basis for Trump’s claim that he was supposed to be in Ohio on Saturday; he is planning to visit the state on May 15, another court-free Wednesday. And it’s unclear what his campaign internally “marked down,” but he had never publicly scheduled a campaign event for Georgia on Friday.

Trump held campaign rallies in Wisconsin and Michigan on Wednesday, and he had a rally planned for North Carolina the previous Saturday that was called off because of severe weather. However, he has regularly declined to visit swing states or hold public events on his days without court, opting instead to host dinners and meetings at Trump Tower in Manhattan or to play golf at his club in Bedminster, New Jersey.

Trump and the ‘advice of counsel’

Trump complained Tuesday that Merchan was not allowing him to invoke the advice he claims he was given by lawyers. Criminal defendants sometimes employ an “advice of counsel” defense to try to demonstrate that they had not intended to break the law.

“Here, I’m not even allowed to say ‘advice of counsel.’ This is a new one to me, ‘advice of counsel,’” Trump told reporters outside the courtroom. “When you have a lawyer and the lawyer does something or advises you on something, you say ‘advice of counsel.’ He said you’re not allowed to say that.”

Facts First: Trump’s claim is misleading. He failed to mention that the reason Merchan will not allow Trump’s legal team to invoke “advice of counsel” during the trial is that, when Trump was asked before the trial whether he would be using an “advice of counsel” defense, his lawyers told Merchan he would not.

An “advice of counsel” defense typically requires the defendant to waive attorney-client privilege. Trump’s lawyers told Merchan before the trial that instead of a “formal” defense of “advice of counsel,” Trump wanted to use a different defense in which he would not waive attorney-client privilege but would still “elicit evidence concerning the presence, involvement and advice of lawyers in relevant events giving rise to the charges in the Indictment.”

Merchan rejected this proposal. He wrote in March: “To allow said defense in this matter would effectively permit Defendant to invoke the very defense he has declared he will not rely upon, without the concomitant obligations that come with it. The result would undoubtedly be to confuse and mislead the jury. This Court can not endorse such a tactic.”

Therefore, Merchan ruled, Trump could not invoke or even suggest a “presence of counsel” defense in the trial.

Biden and the case

Trump continued to declare that Biden had orchestrated the case. He said upon leaving court on Tuesday: “They have me sitting here for a Biden trial. It’s a Biden trial.”

Facts First: There is no basis for Trump’s claim. There is no evidence that Biden has had any role in launching or running Bragg’s prosecution - and Bragg is a locally elected official who does not report to the federal government. The indictment in the case was approved by a grand jury of ordinary citizens.

Trump has repeatedly invoked a lawyer on Bragg’s team, Matthew Colangelo, while making such claims; Colangelo left the Justice Department in 2022 to join the district attorney’s office as senior counsel to Bragg. But there is no evidence that Biden had anything to do with Colangelo’s employment decision. Colangelo and Bragg had been colleagues before Bragg was elected Manhattan district attorney in 2021.

Before Colangelo worked at the Justice Department, he and Bragg worked at the same time in the office of New York’s state attorney general, where Colangelo investigated Trump’s charity and Trump’s financial practices and was involved in bringing various lawsuits against the Trump administration.

This story has been updated with additional information.

CNN’s Kristen Holmes contributed to this article.

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