Less Than a Day Before First Criminal Trial Begins, Trump Attacks Judge—Again

Welcome to 2024.

Trump keeps attacking judges—including the one who will preside over his first criminal trial set to begin Monday.Robin Rayne/ZUMA

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With less than 24 hours until his first criminal trial kicks off, Donald Trump is doing what you’d probably expect: attacking the judge presiding over the case.

In a post on Truth Social, Trump alleged that Judge Juan Merchan might be “the most highly conflicted Judge in New York State history” and complained of a “Fake Biden Trial.”

As my colleague David Corn reported, Trump’s first criminal trial—of the four criminal cases he faces—begins tomorrow in New York City, and is focused on his falsifying of business records related to the reported hush money payout he made to keep porn star Stormy Daniels quiet about their alleged tryst. Trump has pleaded not guilty to the charges and denied the affair. It’ll mark the first time a US president has gone to criminal trial. 

Trump’s lawyers have unsuccessfully sought to have the judge removed from the case, partly due to $35 worth of donations Merchan reportedly made to Democratic causes during the 2020 campaign cycle, including $15 to Biden

Judge Merchan first instituted a gag order in March barring Trump from making public statements about likely trial witnesses; the judge then expanded it on April 1 to ban Trump from talking about the families of the judge and Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg—though Trump can still criticize those two men, the Associated Press reports. It also bars Trump from making any statements harassing court staff, jurors, the prosecution team, or their families.

“It is no longer just a mere possibility or a reasonable likelihood that there exists a threat to the integrity of the judicial proceedings. The threat is very real,” Merchan said when he expanded the gag order earlier this month. “Admonitions are not enough, nor is reliance on self-restraint.”

This became all the more clear yesterday, when Trump also attacked his former attorney Michael Cohen in another Truth Social post. Cohen is expected to be a key witness for prosecutors. This criticism of Cohen could violate Merchan’s original gag order. (A spokesperson for the New York State Unified Court System didn’t immediately reply Sunday afternoon to a question seeking clarification on that point.)

In a Saturday appearance on MSNBC, Cohen said he was feeling “stressed, nervous” ahead of the trial, adding, “the attacks are relentless because that’s what he does. He attacks the judge, he attacks the judge’s daughter, he attacks witnesses, he attacks anyone and everyone.

For Trump, attacking the people overseeing his cases has become a pattern that has earned him rebukes from judges and gag orders in New York City and Washington, DC cases, as my colleague Russ Choma reported last year. Trump’s relentless attacks on judges and prosecutors may have also contributed to the more than doubling of threats to federal judges and prosecutors since the 2020 election, as I covered back in February.

And it’s unlikely to abate anytime soon: Trump is slated to appear in courtrooms across the country this year for multiple other trials, including the cases surrounding Trump’s alleged efforts to overturn the 2020 election results in Georgia and his hoarding of classified documents

So, welcome to 2024. It’s going to be like this: 

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This is the rubber-meets-road moment: the early days in our first fundraising drive since we took a big swing and merged with CIR to bring fearless investigative reporting to the internet, radio, video, and everywhere else that people need an antidote to lies and propaganda.

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