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Trump’s Big Mouth Just Got Him in Trouble in Hush-Money Trial

Judge Juan Merchan admonished the former president for muttering audibly in court.

Donald Trump speaks while sitting at a table with his hands folded
Justin Lane/Pool/Getty Images

Donald Trump was told off on just the second day of his hush-money trial by Judge Juan Merchan for speaking out loud in court.

Jury selection proceeded on Tuesday, and at one point, Trump tried to say something to one of the potential jurors.

“Your client was audibly saying something in her direction,” Merchan told the former president’s attorney, Todd Blanche, noting that Trump seemed to be speaking a juror about 12 feet away. “I won’t tolerate that. I will not have any juror intimated in this courtroom. I want to make that crystal clear.”

It wasn’t the first warning that Trump has received in the trial. In a court filing Tuesday morning, prosecutors asked Merchan to warn the former president to stop violating his gag order, with prison time as a penalty. Trump also is required to attend a contempt hearing next week over his alleged gag order violations.

Trump should be no stranger to gag orders, having been saddled with them during his civil fraud trial and his Washington, D.C., election interference trial. And yet, before day two of his trial began, Trump complained on Truth Social about the judge’s gag order, which forbids him from speaking publicly about courtroom staff, prosecutors, or any of their family members, calling it “unconstitutional” and “election interference.”

The former president can’t seem to stop talking himself into trouble. During his defamation case against E. Jean Carroll in January, Judge Lewis Kaplan nearly kicked Trump out of the courtroom for repeatedly making comments within earshot of the jury.

“Mr. Trump, I hope I don’t have to exclude you from the trial. I understand you are probably very eager for me to do that. Control yourself,” Kaplan said at the time.

But self-control is not the former president’s strong suit. Nearly every day, Trump has posted on his Truth Social account with some kind of rant or complaint, attacking enemies ranging from President Biden to Merchan’s daughter.

Did Trump Just Admit to His Hush-Money Trial Crimes?

The former president said he simply marked a payment down as a “legal expense.”

Donald Trump gestures with his hands as he speaks
Curtis Means/Pool/Getty Images

Donald Trump’s “bad publicity is sometimes better than no publicity at all” philosophy may have just given his attorneys another headache.

The former president is on trial in New York for allegedly falsifying business records in order to conceal an affair with and subsequent hush-money payments to adult film actress Stormy Daniels, part of an effort to sway the 2016 presidential election.

And on Tuesday, Trump seemed to outright admit he had done so, insisting to reporters crowded outside the courthouse that he marked the expenditures to Daniels via his former fixer and attorney Michael Cohen as a “legal expense.”

“This was a trial that should have never been brought,” Trump said. “I was paying a lawyer and marked it down as a legal expense. Some accountant, I didn’t know, marked it down as a legal expense. That’s exactly what it was … and you get indicted over that? I should be, right now, in Pennsylvania and Florida and many other states—North Carolina, Georgia—campaigning. This is all coming from the Biden White House because the guy can’t put two sentences together.”

“So check it out. It’s called legal expense, that’s what you’re supposed to call it. No one has ever seen anything like it,” he added.

Unfortunately for Trump, payments to porn actresses made in exchange for their silence don’t usually qualify as legal expenses—especially when those payments amount to key details that could influence a voting populace’s choices ahead of a presidential election.

Trump faces 34 felony charges in the case for allegedly falsifying business records with the intent to further an underlying crime. He has pleaded not guilty on all counts.

The Shocking April Holiday That Mississippi Is Still Celebrating

Mississippi still marks Confederate Heritage Month every April.

Brandon Bell/Getty Images

In the year of our lord 2024, the Confederate States of America are still being honored in Mississippi. 

Continuing a decades-old annual tradition, Governor Tate Reeves declared April as “Confederate Heritage Month,” the Beauvoir museum in Biloxi announced on Facebook Friday. The site is the historic home of Confederate President Jefferson Davis. 

The tradition dates back to 1993 but isn’t publicized by any Mississippi state official or government agency. The only organization that regularly does so is the Sons of Confederate Veterans, or SCV, who first requested the proclamation 31 years ago.  The SCV owns and operates the Beauvoir museum, promoting the “Lost Cause” myth of the Civil War that downplays the role of slavery and white supremacy in causing the war.

Reeves’s record on race and Civil War history is checkered. As a student at Millsaps College in his youth, Reeves was part of a fraternity that threw Confederate-themed parties where members wore blackface. The governor says he never wore blackface while in the fraternity. 

In 2020, he signed a law retiring Mississippi’s state flag, which honored the Confederate flag, but criticized Black Lives Matter protesters at the same time. And Reeves has also denied the existence of systemic racism in the United States. 

Mississippi is the only state that has dedicated a month to honoring the Confederacy in the last three years, although six other Southern states have done so historically. Mississippi will also recognize Confederate Memorial Day on April 27, as state law requires. But those seeking to protest against these policies will have a tough time: The Supreme Court just effectively abolished protests in Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas.

Wait Till You Hear What GOP Has to Say on Tom Cotton’s Latest Remarks

Spoiler alert: not much.

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Senator Tom Cotton is doubling down on his calls for mass violence against protesters, suggesting online that the proper way for fellow citizens to handle a group of people peacefully exercising their First Amendment rights is to physically assault them.

The alarming post came Tuesday, a day after the Arkansas Republican reacted to a group of activists that shut down traffic on the Golden Gate Bridge for five hours in protest of Israel’s war on Gaza, telling Fox News that the protesters would be thrown off the bridge if the demonstration had occurred in Arkansas.

“If something like this happened in Arkansas on a bridge there, let’s just say that there would be a lot of very wet criminals that would have been tossed overboard, not by law enforcement, but by the people whose road they are blocking,” Cotton said. “If they glued their hands to a car or pavement it would probably be pretty painful to have their skin ripped off, but I think that’s the way we’d handle it in Arkansas.”

“And I’d encourage most people, anywhere, that get stuck behind criminals like this that are trying to block traffic like this, to take matters into their own hands. There’s only usually a few of them, and there’s a lot of people being inconvenienced,” Cotton continued. “It’s time to put an end to this nonsense.”

And his fellow Republican lawmakers don’t seem bothered by that one bit—or at least not enough to condemn him for explicitly endorsing violence between citizens.

MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough called him out on that, recalling a time when such behavior was deemed unpatriotic and morally reprehensible within the conservative party.

“Because of Donald Trump there is no peer pressure anymore,” Scarborough—a former Republican legislator for Florida—said on Tuesday. “I will tell you, if a senator of either party or a member of Congress of either party said we need to throw people off the bridge, we need to rip the skin off their hands—at any time before Trump—that senator would be apologizing this morning. Now it won’t even leave a mark. He’ll probably raise more money off it.”

“They’re suggesting that violence is conservative,” the anchor continued. “It’s what Tom Cotton is saying, it’s what Donald Trump is saying, it’s what those people who use ‘violence rhetoric’ are suggesting. It’s not. It’s the opposite of being conservative.”

Comedy World Righteously Roasts Trump Over Gettysburg Gaffe

People can’t stop cracking up over the former president’s bizarre, bumbling speech.

Donald Trump speaks into a microphone
Hannah Beier/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Speaking outside Allentown, Pennsylvania, on Sunday, Donald Trump left everyone confused when he attempted to explain the Battle of Gettysburg, praised (and invented a quote from) Confederate General Robert E. Lee, and generally had no idea what he was talking about.

When his off-the-cuff remarks hit late-night television on Monday, the hosts couldn’t hide their laughter.

“You have to hand it to this guy: On the weekend before his unprecedented criminal trial begins, he somehow manages to overshadow it with this broken-brained interpretation of what happened at Gettysburg during the Civil War,” Jimmy Kimmel quipped.

“What a stirring orator. I look forward to Ken Burns’s updated documentary,” Stephen Colbert said.

“That is plagiarized almost directly from my seventh-grade book report, ‘Gettysburg: Wow,’” said Jon Stewart on The Daily Show.

Donald Trump’s knowledge of history has long been suspect—we’re still not sure if he knows who Frederick Douglass is, for example. His remarks on Saturday aren’t even the first time that he’s made this bizarre recounting of the Battle of Gettysburg. Perhaps he should follow in Abraham Lincoln’s footsteps and pay a visit to the actual battlefield—though he clearly didn’t learn much from an October 2016 visit. But how much free time will he have before the election, since he has to be in a courtroom most of the time?

Another Republican Signs onto MTG’s Effort to Oust Mike Johnson

The House speaker is one vote closer to losing his job.

Mike Johnson looks up
Win McNamee/Getty Images

House Speaker Mike Johnson just lost one more party member to the simmering Republican effort to strip him of his job.

Kentucky Representative Thomas Massie announced on Tuesday that he had sided with Georgia Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene to rid the lower chamber of Johnson’s leadership.

“I just told Mike Johnson in conference that I’m cosponsoring the Motion to Vacate that was introduced by @RepMTG,” Massie wrote on X. “He should pre-announce his resignation (as Boehner did), so we can pick a new Speaker without ever being without a GOP Speaker.”

And the straw that broke the camel’s back?

“All of the above. This camel has a pallet of bricks,” Massie wrote, following a string of tweets pointing to the Ukraine-Israel-Taiwan foreign aid package, the expansion of a “warrantless” domestic surveillance program, a proposal to ban TikTok, and the lack of a border bill.

Johnson has, according to Massie, already issued his response, telling the Kentuckian that he “won’t resign.”

“I said to him that he is the only one who can prevent us from going through what happened last fall,” Massie posted.

Massie’s defection from the pro-Johnson camp adds incredible pressure to the speaker’s already tenuous position in a monumentally divided House GOP. As of Tuesday, Greene needs just one more conservative defector in order to oust Johnson—or, if the vote takes place after Republican Representative Mike Gallagher takes his leave from Congress on Friday, the pair might be enough to give Johnson the boot on their own.

In March, Greene filed a motion to vacate after Johnson worked with Democrats and Republicans in the Senate to pass a $1.2 trillion omnibus bill, torching him for accomplishing one of the legislature’s primary annual responsibilities: funding the government.

But last week the Georgia Republican ramped up her attacks, circulating a vicious five-page memo calling for his removal while accusing the caucus of ignoring the wills of its constituents via the party’s alleged “complete and total surrender” to Democrats under Johnson’s helm.

Alina Habba Reawakens Severe Doubts About Her Legal Education

Does Alina Habba even know what “due process” means?

Alina Habba speaks into microphones
GWR/Star Max/GC Images

Donald Trump’s lawyer is complaining that her client is being denied due process because he can’t attend all of his legal proceedings.

Alina Habba slammed Judge Juan Merchan Monday night for not making a special exception to allow Trump to attend the Supreme Court case on presidential immunity in Washington, D.C. She insisted that refusing to do so violated a basic right outlined in the Constitution.

“Not even allowing a person due process, the right to go sit in front of the Supreme Court and hear a case that determines many lawsuits that are currently against President Trump on immunity,” Habba complained to Fox News’s Sean Hannity.

“Due process” simply means that legal proceedings must be carried out according to certain rules. Trump is getting due process by going to trial over alleged hush-money payments. Due process does not guarantee him the right to go sit in the Supreme Court.

Another issue is that New York state law requires a criminal defendant to attend every day of their trial unless they receive an exception from the judge. Trump’s hush-money trial began Monday, with Merchan outlining that requirement. Merchan also noted that it was too early to say if Trump could attend his son Barron’s high school graduation.

Trump and his fellow Republicans may finally be realizing that even a former president is subject to the same laws and rules as every other criminal defendant. This is Trump’s first criminal trial, and he can’t expect to continue his life as normal while the trial is ongoing, even if that means less traveling around the country campaigning or celebrating. And he’s not completely restricted: Trump can still be on the campaign trail every weekend, evening, and Wednesday as long as the case continues.

The schedule of the trial, and how it conflicts with the other legal proceedings, can hardly be considered a constitutional question. In fact, it is in large part due to Trump’s legal strategy: repeatedly delaying proceedings as long as possible to hopefully push decisions about him until after Election Day, which might not even work out in his favor.

And it’s not the first time that Habba has seemingly failed to grasp important pieces of the law. During Trump’s defamation trial in January, she repeatedly failed to understand courtroom procedure and spoke out of turn, and was admonished by Judge Lewis Kaplan several times.

Trump Keeps Digging His Grave Deeper Over Hush Money Trial Gag Order

The former president demanded to be released from the gag order in his hush-money trial.

Donald Trump gestures while he speaks
Jabin Botsford/Pool/Getty Images

Donald Trump issued some fresh vitriol against Judge Juan Merchan Tuesday morning, clamoring once again for the gag order imposed on him to be removed, even though he seems to be willfully ignoring it anyway.

“MY TRIAL IS AN ASSAULT ON AMERICA!” Trump posted on Truth Social.

“This conflicted, Trump Hating Judge won’t let me respond to people that are on TV lying and spewing hate all day long,” he continued. “He is running rough shod over my lawyers and legal team. The New York System of ‘Justice’ is being decimated by critics from all over the World. I want to speak, or at least be able to respond. Election Interference! RIGGED, UNCONSTITUTIONAL TRIAL! Take off the Gag Order!!!”

The GOP presidential nominee isn’t really forbidden to speak, though. The partial gag order forbids Trump from speaking publicly about courtroom staff, prosecutors, or any of their family members. Comments about jurors are also prohibited, as well as comments about witnesses—but wiggle room still exists within the order that allows Trump to attack Merchan, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, or anybody else, for that matter, including his political rivals.

According to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, Trump may have already violated his gag order several times—including at least one instance in which he seemingly posted while in court.

But none of this should be news to Trump, who so far has been hit with two other gag orders in his prior legal trials. In October, Judge Arthur Engoron silenced the former president after he ushered a wealth of far-right venom onto Engoron’s chief law clerk. Trump was later fined $15,000 for violating the order. Judge Tanya Chutkan also imposed a gag order on Trump in his election interference trial.

Still, the level of punishment for Trump’s disregard of his gag order could vary, according to MSNBC analyst Caroline Polisi, who noted on Monday that it might range from a “tongue lashing” to “monetary sanctions” to actually “putting him in jail.”

“The judge is in a tough spot here,” Polisi said during live coverage of the first day of the trial. “No judge wants to be that, you know, person. That is, the one to throw former President Trump in jail for criminal contempt. I personally just don’t see that happening. But the judge’s hands may be tied here. You know, we’ve seen previous judges issue these sort of escalating sanctions, monetary sanctions.”

Trump Just Made the Weirdest False Claim About Hush-Money Trial Judge

The former president said he was banned from attending his son’s high school graduation.

Donald Trump gestures with his hands as he speaks
Jabin Botsford/Pool/Getty Images

Donald Trump had a strange claim at the end of the first day of his hush-money trial: He said that the judge had barred him from attending his son’s high school graduation next month.

“It looks like the judge will not let me go to the graduation of my son who’s worked very, very hard and he is a great student,” Trump told reporters outside of Manhattan district court Monday. “It looks like the judge isn’t going to allow me to escape this scam. It’s a scam trial.”

Trump’s legal team had filed a motion requesting the former president be allowed to attend the graduation ceremony. Judge Juan Merchan declined to decide the issue on Monday, saying it depends on if everything is running on schedule.

But the thing is, if Trump can’t go, then he has no one to blame but himself. Trump’s legal strategy has been to delay, delay, delay in order to keep the rulings in his many legal cases as late as possible, hopefully past the November election. But now that strategy may backfire on him—but in his personal life.

It’s an unexpected development in the legal saga of the former president who, in addition to his Manhattan hush-money trial, is on trial in Florida for mishandling classified documents; in Washington, D.C., for attempting to overthrow the election; and in Fulton County, Georgia, for interfering in that state’s election.

He’ll be required to be in court for every session of his New York trial—which is standard procedure for criminal trials but beyond the pale to Trump and his Republican supporters—and he’ll only be able to be on the campaign trail every weekend, evening, and Wednesday as long as the case continues. If he misses a day in court, he could even face prison time.

The former president had to know that dragging each case out would eventually cause a scheduling issue between his presidential campaign and his personal life. It’s unprecedented for a former president to face criminal charges, let alone while they are campaigning for reelection, so this is probably not the end of any new, weird developments. In the end, though, if Trump is still in court by the time Election Day comes around in November, it could be bad for his chances of returning to the White House.

What else about the trial has Republicans angry:

Republicans Are Furious Over This Very Normal Thing in Trump’s Trial

Trump’s allies are accusing the court of bias against the former president.

Donald Trump, seen in three-quarter profile, looks ahead while sitting at a table with his hands folded
Jabin Botsford/Pool/Getty Images

Donald Trump’s MAGA disciples were left fuming after the first day of his hush money criminal trial… but all their heat boiled down to one detail: that the GOP presidential nominee was being held to the same legal standards as every other private citizen.

The weeks-long proceeding will require Trump to be in court for every session—something Trump himself has challenged as “election interference” on the basis that it will keep him away from the campaign trail—even though he’ll be permitted to campaign every weekend, evening, and Wednesday during the process. If he fails to appear in court, he could face an arrest warrant.

But that standard expectation for a criminal trial was, apparently, all too much for his allies, with the campaign’s official spokesperson Karoline Leavitt condemning the procedure on Monday as “banana republic tactics.”

Screenshot of a tweet

New York Representative Elise Stefanik—who has been vying to become Trump’s vice presidential pick—undercut the expectations of New York law, similarly suggesting in a post that Trump was being unfairly treated, when in actuality the judge was just going through the usual motions.

“Corrupt Judge Merchan, a Biden donor whose family member has profited off this case & who illegally gagged President Trump just said ‘If you do not show up, there will be an arrest,’” Stefanik posted. “A 6-8 week show trial... Total election interference.”

In her replies, one attorney reminded the New York lawmaker that Trump was being held to the same standards as any criminal defendant. The rule about presence in court is called the Parker Warning, and it is given to all defendants in New York state.

“Elise. You know that this is a standard charge given to every defendant in every criminal case pending in nys,” wrote Joshua Stein, a law partner at Greenberg & Stein. “Why, if you’re so in the right, do you have to mislead your constituents?”

And Trump’s other GOP followers, such as Florida Representative Byron Donalds, just don’t seem to care if he’s guilty anymore, according to a new report by The Daily Beast which found that just one in 20 interviewed GOP lawmakers showed concern for the possibility that their nominee for the White House might become a convicted felon.

But their perspective wasn’t shared by prospective jurors, one of whom told MSNBC contributor Adam Klasfeld that they “feel that nobody’s above the law, whether it’s a former president, a sitting president or a janitor.”

Trump is accused of using former fixer Michael Cohen to sweep an affair with adult film actress Stormy Daniels under the rug ahead of the 2016 presidential election. He faces 34 felony charges in this case for allegedly falsifying business records with the intent to further an underlying crime. Trump has pleaded not guilty on all counts.