Trump’s trial resumes: 5 takeaways from Tuesday’s proceedings in New York

Trump’s trial resumes: 5 takeaways from Tuesday’s proceedings in New York

The second week of testimony in former President Trump’s New York trial got underway Tuesday — and it was more eventful than expected, encompassing everything from a gag order ruling to new details around Trump’s alleged affairs.

The former president faces 34 felony counts of falsification of business records. If he is convicted, he could face imprisonment, though incarceration would be unusual for a first-time offender.

The backstory to the case centers on a $130,000 payment made by Trump’s then-attorney and fixer Michael Cohen to porn actress Stormy Daniels in the final weeks of the 2016 presidential campaign.

The money was intended to buy Daniels’s silence about a sexual encounter she says she had with Trump a decade prior.

Trump denies having sex with Daniels or doing anything illegal regarding the payment.

Here are the main takeaways from Tuesday’s proceedings.

Trump found in contempt for gag order violations

Prosecutors had complained that Trump had repeatedly violated a gag order imposed upon him by Judge Juan Merchan, who is presiding over the case.

Lawyers for Trump countered that the former president was just hitting back at things that had been said about him. They also contended that reposts by Trump of other people’s messages basically should not count.

Merchan ruled against Trump on Tuesday morning, holding that nine of the 10 posts violated the gag order and that Trump was therefore in contempt of court.

The former president was fined $1,000 for each instance, a total of $9,000.

Merchan lamented that he could not impose steeper fines on someone of Trump’s purported wealth, writing in his ruling, “it would be preferable if the Court could impose a fine more commensurate with the wealth of the contemnor.”

Merchan also emphasized that Trump could face jail time if he continued with his pattern of violations.

Trump’s presidential campaign cited the judge’s decision in a fundraising email sent very soon afterward.

But the offending posts and statements covered by the ruling were also promptly deleted, as Merchan ordered.

Testimony from lawyer reveals details of Karen McDougal deal

The payment to Daniels is at the core of the criminal charges.

But prosecutors are seeking to show the Daniels episode was part of a larger pattern in which Trump and his allies sought to suppress embarrassing stories to shore up his hopes of winning the 2016 election.

On Tuesday, a deal made between American Media Inc. — the Trump-friendly publisher of the National Enquirer — and former Playboy model Karen McDougal took center stage.

The details came in the testimony of Keith Davidson, a lawyer who represented both McDougal and Daniels.

The jury heard about texts between Davidson and Dylan Howard, who was serving as editor in chief of the National Enquirer at the time.

Davidson told Howard he could provide the supermarket tabloid with a “blockbuster Trump story” — referring to McDougal’s claim that she had an affair with Trump about 10 years previously.

Howard replied, “I will get you more than ANYONE for it. You know why” — a possible reference to the publishing company’s affinity for Trump.

A deal was eventually done with McDougal for $150,000 and the promise of coverage and ghostwritten columns in other America Media publications.

Trump wades into college protest controversy with Charlottesville and Jan. 6 comparisons

Trump addressed the college protests over Israel’s conduct in Gaza when he spoke to the media before proceedings began — and his comments were characteristically contentious.

Trump described events in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017 as “peanuts” compared to the uproar on campuses at the moment.

In August 2017, far-right protesters bearing torches marched in the Virginia city, their chants including “Jews will not replace us!”

A 32-year-old counterprotester, Heather Heyer, was ran over and killed by an Adolf Hitler admirer who was later convicted for her murder.

On Tuesday, Trump also implied pro-Palestinian Columbia University students who have occupied a college building would be treated more leniently than people jailed for their role in the Capitol riot of Jan. 6, 2021.

“I wonder if what’s going to happen to them will be anything comparable to what happened to J6,” he said.

On Jan. 6, 2021, approximately 140 law enforcement officials were assaulted by members of a pro-Trump crowd seeking to overturn President Biden’s victory in the  2020 presidential election.

Trump has previously referred to people imprisoned for their actions on Jan. 6 as “hostages.”

Trump can attend his youngest son’s high school graduation

One of the more peculiar controversies of the trial’s opening days revolved around whether Trump would be able to attend the high school graduation of his youngest son, Barron. The former president is required to be in court on every day it sits, unless he is granted an exception.

Merchan had never said Trump could not attend Barron’s graduation, but he had reserved judgment to see how expeditiously the trial would proceed.

Trump and his allies had blasted Merchan anyway. Trump complained back on April 15, the trial’s first day of jury selection, that “it looks like the judge isn’t going to allow me to escape this scam” for the ceremony.

Barron’s graduation is set for May 17 in Florida. Merchan stated early Tuesday that the court should be able to pause on that day.

“I don’t think the May 17 date is a problem. So Mr. Trump can certainly attend that date — attend his son’s graduation,” Merchan said.

Some texts mocked Trump over money

Trump is famously sensitive to claims that he exaggerates his wealth.

His image in that regard took a massive blow earlier this year, when he and his associates were tagged with a $355 million penalty in a civil fraud trial. In that case, Judge Arthur Engoron ruled Trump and his business entities “submitted blatantly false financial data” to obtain loans.

Trump is appealing the verdict.

There was nothing on that scale in Tuesday’s proceedings.

But testimony did feature a text exchange between Davidson and Howard that seemed to blame Trump’s frugality for delaying the payment to Daniels.

Howard complained that the delay was because Trump was “tight” with money. A later message added “I reckon that trump impersonator I hired has more cash.”

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