"They want to keep me off the trail for two to three more weeks": The fourth week of the Trump trial begins

The former president denounces electoral interference and the judge threatens to send him to jail if he continues to violate the silence order.

The fourth week of Donald Trump’s trial for payments to porn actress Stormy Daniels, made eight years ago, began with a new threat from Judge Juan Merchán to send the former president to jail.

During the morning, the former controller of the Trump Organization, Jeffrey McConney, testified that the former president did not personally entrust him with the payments made to Michael Cohen due to Daniels’ silence and that he always discussed this matter with the company’s financial director. The day ended with Trump’s complaint that they want to keep him out of the presidential campaign for “two or three more weeks,” calling the situation “electoral interference.”

Threat of jail

Judge Merchán began Monday by assuring that the fines imposed on Trump for violating the gag order are not working. Merchán found Trump guilty of a new violation and warned that he could send him to jail if he does not comply with the gag order from now on.

“Your continued willful violation of the court’s order constitutes a direct attack on the court and will not be allowed to continue,” the judge said.

The order issued by Merchán reads: “Defendant is hereby put on notice that if appropriate and warranted, future violations of its lawful orders will be punishable by incarceration.”

The gag order prohibits the former president from speaking publicly about the witnesses in the case, including the Prosecutor’s star witness, lawyer Michael Cohen, who in recent months has made an entire career profiting from his stories alongside Trump. Cohen brings stories to the media and accuses the former president, meanwhile, Trump has been prohibited from answering those accusations.

The former president’s legal team has pointed out on different occasions that a presidential candidate’s right to freedom of expression is being violated while the Prosecutor’s Office’s star witness is allowed to speak freely.

McConney says Trump did not personally order payments to Cohen

Former Trump Organization Comptroller Jeffrey McConney claimed that the organization agreed to return Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, $420,000 in exchange for the $130,000 payment made to Daniels but stated that the former president never personally asked him to make the payments to Cohen.

During McConney’s three-hour interrogation, the jury was shown the invoices sent by Cohen in 2017. McConney claimed that he discussed the payments with CFO Allen Weisselberg and that the final figure paid to Cohen was much higher than the money given to Daniels in exchange for his silence because $50,000 was added for Red Finch’s technological services. They also gave Cohen the taxes he would have to pay on that income and a bonus of $60,000.

“Payments to lawyers by the Trump Organization are legal expenses, right?” Trump’s defense lawyer asked the organization’s former comptroller.

“Yes,” McConney said.

“President Trump did not ask you to do any of the things you just described ... correct?” The defense attorney asked.

“He didn’t,” McConney responded.

“They want to keep me out of the campaign for two or three more weeks”

“So we just found out the government just said that they want two to three more weeks. That means they want to keep me off the trail for two to three more weeks,” Trump said in one of his now customary remarks at the end of the day in court.

This Monday, the judge asked the Prosecutor’s Office how much more time he thought he would need to finish presenting his case. The Prosecutor’s Office assured him that although things were going well, they would still need a few more weeks.

“The judge is so happy about two to three weeks because they all want to keep me off the campaign trail. That’s all this is about. This is about election interference,” said the former president at the end of his first day of the fourth week in court.