Judge directs Michael Cohen to refrain from talking about Trump trial

Judge directs Michael Cohen to refrain from talking about Trump trial

Judge Juan Merchan on Friday directed Manhattan prosecutors to inform Michael Cohen, their star witness in former President Trump’s ongoing criminal trial, to stop speaking publicly about the case as his testimony approaches.

Cohen, Trump’s ex-fixer and personal attorney who made the hush money payment at the center of the trial, is expected to begin taking the stand Monday, according to a source with knowledge of the matter, marking the climax of prosecutors’ case in chief.

Trump’s lawyers have repeatedly criticized Cohen’s public attacks on Trump, given that the former president’s ability to respond is limited under the terms of his gag order.

Before court proceedings wrapped for the week, Todd Blanche, Trump’s attorney, asked that Cohen be prohibited from talking “in the same way President Trump is” restricted.

“I will direct [the prosecution] to communicate to Mr. Cohen that the judge is asking him to refrain from any more statements about this case,” Merchan said from the bench.

He told prosecutors moments later, “that comes from the bench, and you are communicating that on behalf of the bench.”

The former president’s ex-fixer previously said he would refrain from attacks on Trump, but defense attorneys said Friday that he posted a TikTok on Wednesday night wearing a T-shirt that showed Trump in an orange jumpsuit and behind bars.

“It’s becoming a problem every single day that President Trump is not allowed to respond to this witness, but this witness is allowed to continue to talk,” Blanche said.

Both Trump and Cohen have hurled insults at each other, but because Trump is barred from publicly remarking about witnesses under the judge’s gag order, the former president has not been able to respond to recent attacks.

“We have no control over what they do,” prosecutor Joshua Steinglass told the judge. “We have repeatedly — repeatedly — asked the witnesses not to do this.”

Cohen has been billed as a key witness for the district attorney’s office. He made the $130,000 hush money payment to adult film actor Stormy Daniels, who claimed she had an affair with Trump in 2006, which he denies. Cohen also played a role in coordinating two other hush money deals that benefited Trump.

Trump has pleaded not guilty and again insisted to reporters Friday that the records were truthful.

“There is no gag order on Michael Cohen, but what the judge did was amazing, actually, was amazing,” Trump said outside the courtroom, with a stack of news clippings in hand.

“Everybody can say whatever they want. They can say whatever they want, but I’m not allowed to say anything about anybody. It’s a disgrace.”

Brett Samuels contributed.

Updated at 1:46 p.m. ET

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