Judge asked to punish Donald Trump for court breach on denigrating trial witnesses in public

ITV News US Correspondent Dan Rivers reports from New York on the latest developments to emerge from Donald Trump's Hush Money trial

Manhattan prosecutors are seeking to have Donald Trump held in contempt of court and be sanctioned for allegedly violating a gag order issued by trial judge Juan Merchan.

In a hearing on Tuesday morning outside the jury's presence before testimony resumed, Assistant District Attorney Christopher Conroy cited 10 instances between April 10 and April 17 of objectionable posts since Mr Merchan's gag order, which prohibits Mr Trump from attacking foreseeable trial witnesses - like Michael Cohen and Stormy Daniels - families of court staff, lawyers or jurors.

Eight of the recent posts appeared on Mr Trump's Truth Social platform, and two appeared on his official campaign website - including posts since the trial began with jury selection last week.

"The defendant has violated this order repeatedly and never stopped," Mr Conroy argued to Mr Merchan.

"Throwing a MAGA into a post doesn't make it more political. It may make it more ominous."

For example, Mr Conroy said, the former US president posted that Mr Cohen is a "serial perjurer", who had been "caught lying" in his last trial.

Another recent Trump post called Mr Cohen and Mrs Daniels "sleaze bags".

Even his comments in the hallway outside the courtroom, Mr Conroy said, Mr Trump has violated the order, particularly by attacking Mr Cohen.

"He knows what he is not allowed to do, and he does it anyway," Mr Conroy said.

"His disobedience of the order is willful. It's intentional."

The Manhattan District Attorney asked Mr Merchan to impose the maximum $1,000 (£804) fine for each offending post and to order Mr Trump to take them all down.

Prosecutors did not seek jail time - the harshest available punishment.

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In rebuttal, defence attorney Todd Blanche told the court: "President Trump does in fact know what the gag order allows him to do and doesn't allow him to do."

Mr Blanche argued Mr Trump's posts are political in nature, as Mr Cohen has "repeatedly" talked derisively about Mr Trump's fitness to hold office again.

"President Trump is allowed to respond to political attacks," Mr Blanche said, and defended Mr Trump's posts about Mrs Daniels' public criticism.

"Her credibility matters much more than in this courtroom," Mr Blanche said. "He is running for president and needs to respond to that."

Mr Blanche added that one post by Mr Trump had responded to Mr Cohen's assertion that Michael Avenatti - the imprisoned former attorney for Mrs Daniels - was supporting Mr Trump in the hope of winning a pardon from him.

"What is it about Cohen's post that makes it political?" Mr Merchan asked.

"The pardon," Mr Blanche said.

Mr Blanche challenged the prosecutors' view that Mr Trump's posts about Mr Cohen were attacks on his once loyal fixer.

"It's attacking the people and the system for not prosecuting Mr Cohen for lying," he said.

Donald Trump was accused of breaching the court order on 10 separate occasions. Credit: AP

Mr Merchan's gag order, which was issued on March 26 and expanded on April 1, found that Mr Trump's "threatening, inflammatory, denigrating" statements posed "a sufficient risk to the administration of justice".

Mr Blanche said whether re-posts violate the gag order is "ambiguous", such as a flagged post of Mr Trump parroting the idea that liberal activists had been trying to gain seats on his jury,

"We are trying to comply with it," Mr Blanche said. "President Trump is being very careful."

Mr Merchan replied: "You're losing all credibility with the court."

The judge announced he would reserve judgement and issue a ruling at a later time.

During the break following the hearing, Mr Trump complained about the gag order.

"To put it mildly, Judge Juan Merchan is violating my constitutional right to free speech," Mr Trump posted on Truth Social.

"Everybody is allowed to talk and lie about me, but I am not allowed to defend myself. This is a kangaroo court."

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