With Trump under a gag order, allies step up attacks on his hush money trial

May 13, 2024
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Former President Donald Trump risks a trip to jail if he attacks witnesses in his New York hush-money trial. But his allies aren’t covered by the gag order he has repeatedly violated, and they’re increasingly launching the broadsides that Trump can’t.

On Monday, as former Trump “fixer” Michael Cohen testified that Trump was directly involved in a scheme to kill negative stories about him during the 2016 election, Sens. JD Vance, R-Ohio, and Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., ripped into Cohen.

“He’s a convicted felon,” Tuberville said of Cohen at a press conference outside the courthouse. “I mean this guy is giving an acting scene.”

“Cohen can’t remember how old his son is or how old he was when he started to work for Trump but I’m sure he remembers extremely small details from years ago!” Vance, who is in contention to be picked as Trump’s running mate, wrote in a sarcasm-laden tweetstorm on X. “Michael Cohen admitting he secretly recorded his employer. Just totally normal conduct, right? The best part is he said he did it only once and only for Trump’s benefit. A standup guy!”

Follow live trial coverage here.

In 2018, Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about a Trump project in Moscow. At the time of his testimony, he remained loyal to his longtime employer.

The friends-and-family loophole has been exploited by lawmakers and by Trump’s sons, Donald Jr. and Eric, the latter of whom has attended portions of the trial. Neither of them has been accused of any wrongdoing in the case, which centers on whether the former president falsified business records in order to help his 2016 election chances by covering up alleged affairs that he denies occurred.

Trump has frequently denounced the gag order, portraying it as an effort to silence his political speech as he campaigns for a return to the Oval Office. Merchan has found him in violation of the order 10 times, fined him and warned him, in no uncertain terms, that further transgressions could result in incarceration.

That’s why Trump supporters say it is crucial for his defenders to give his claims voice in the public arena.

J.D. Vance looks on as Donald Trump speaks to the media.
Sen. JD Vance, R-Ohio, attended Trump’s trial in Manhattan on Monday.Sarah Yenesel / Pool via Getty Images

“It’s more important than normal that all of Trump’s allies speak out loudly against this sham prosecution, given the unconstitutional gag order President Trump is being forced to abide by,” one Trump ally said. “They are not allowing Trump to speak out about the connections the judge and prosecution have to the Democrat[ic] Party and Joe Biden, so it’s incumbent upon his biggest supporters to carry that vital message on his behalf.”

Trump has said that he is ready to testify in his own defense at the trial, but many legal experts note that his lawyers are likely to advise against that.

In addition to the two senators, Rep. Nicole Malliotakis, R-N.Y., and the Republican attorneys general of Iowa and Alabama — Brenna Bird and Steve Marshall — went to the courthouse Monday to support Trump.

“I have been a prosecutor for 30 years and have never witnessed a greater perversion of the criminal justice system than I did this morning,” Marshall said in a statement to NBC News. “This reeks of desperation from a party that has clearly lost all confidence in its nominee, but even this circus won’t distract Americans from recognizing the failures of this administration.”

Malliotakis, who represents Staten Island and part of Brooklyn, said Trump is being subjected to a “sham trial” that depends on the testimony of a “convicted disbarred perjurer” in Cohen. Though prosecutors used Cohen to introduce new evidence — including a recording of Trump telling Cohen to use cash to purchase Playboy model Karen McDougal’s story of an alleged affair — prior witnesses had already testified about key details of the catch-and-kill scheme and how payments were made.

Deploying allies points to the two-pronged nature of Trump’s current fight: inside the courtroom, his lawyers must convince at least one juror that the prosecution failed to prove he is guilty; outside it, he must convince voters that he should be elected president, regardless of the outcome of the trial.

And without cameras to capture the trial, the Trump campaign has also been twisting the truth of what’s happening to supporters, at times telling them versions of developments that don’t completely line up with what’s going on in the room.





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