JUST IN: Judge Makes Major Admission In Trump Trial

Manhattan Judge Juan Merchan has again demonstrated why he remains a favorite foil for former President Donald Trump in his hush money trial. However, he also admitted that Trump may win the White House next year.

Just hours into Monday’s hearing, Merchan slapped Trump with another gag order violation, ruling that comments about the jury in a recent interview were tantamount to attacks on individuals who he said could reasonably fear for their safety as a result. “Defendant violated the Order by making public statements about the jury and how it was selected,” Merchan wrote according to CNN. “In doing so, Defendant not only called into question the integrity, and therefore the legitimacy of these proceedings, but again raised the specter of fear for the safety of the jurors and of their loved ones.”

President Trump remarked on the makeup of the jury while speaking on “Just the News No Noise,” a program on Real America’s Voice, a conservative news streaming service. “You know [the judge is] rushing the trial like crazy. Nobody’s ever seen a thing go like this. That jury was picked so fast – 95% democrats. The area’s mostly all democrat. You think of it as a – just a purely democrat area. It’s a very unfair situation that I can tell you,” Trump said.The statement will cost President Trump another $1,000, adding to the $9,000 he has already paid for nine violations that Judge Merchan ruled occurred in his posts on Truth Social. Monday’s fine was accompanied by a stern warning that any additional violations could result in jail time. “It appears that the $1,000 fines are not serving as a deterrent. Therefore going forward, this court will have to consider a jail sanction,” Judge Juan Merchan said, according to the AP. Trump’s continued statements, he added, “threaten to interfere with the fair administration of justice and constitute a direct attack on the rule of law. I cannot allow that to continue.”

However, Merchan said that jailing Trump is the “last thing I want to do.”

“You are the former president of the United States and possibly the next president as well. There are many reasons why incarceration is truly a last resort for me. To take that step would be disruptive to these proceedings,” Merchan said. Jailing Trump could be a gift in disguise for the Republican frontrunner, whose campaign has previously highlighted Judge Merchan’s daughter – a high-level Democratic operative – when framing the trial as a witch hunt perpetrated by political opponents.

Testimony continued Monday with other individuals who were deep inside Trump’s orbit during the 2016 campaign. On Friday jurors heard from Hope Hicks, the top communications staffer during Trump’s 2016 campaign and through the first year of his administration. Hicks delivered a blow to Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s contentions that President Trump disguised a six-figure hush money payment to an adult film star as a business expense, and instead should have listed it as a political campaign expense. According to Hicks, Trump’s number one priority was protecting his family and former First Lady Melania Trump from the smears.

After the Wall Street Journal ran a story days before the election detailing a payment to former Playboy model Karen McDougal and mentioning Daniels, Hicks said Trump was “concerned how it would be viewed by his wife,” asking her to ensure a paper was not delivered to his house that day.