Trump Lies That He Can’t Testify Because of His Gag Order

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Donald Trump claimed that he is unable to take the stand as a witness in his New York hush-money trial because he is under a gag order. This is not true.

Nevertheless, the former president claimed on Thursday that he’s “not allowed to testify.”

“I’m under a gag order,” he added in his statement to reporters gathered outside of the courtroom. “I’m not allowed to testify because this judge is totally conflicted — has me under an institutional gag order. Nobody’s ever had that before, and we don’t like it, it’s not fair.”

While Trump is subject to a court order barring him from publicly commenting on witnesses, jurors, prosecutors, and other court staff involved in the case, he is free to testify before the jury should he and his legal team decide to do so.

On Friday Judge Juan Merchan directly addressed the claim in court. “It came to my attention that there may be [confusion on] extrajudicial statements and how it impacts Mr. Trump’s right to testify,” he said. “I want to stress, Mr. Trump, that you have the absolute right to testify at trial. That is a constitutional right that cannot be denied or infringed upon.”

Merchan added that “the order does not prohibit you from taking the stand, in fact as the name suggests, it’s extrajudicial statements — that is statements that are made outside of court — [that are prohibited]. It does not apply to statements made from the witness stand.”

Trump also seemed to have forgotten the whole thing ahead of his in-court appearance on Friday, telling reporters that the order “won’t stop me from testifying. The gag order is not for testifying. It stops me from talking about people and responding when they say things about me. We have people saying things about me, and I’m not allowed to respond.”

The whole debacle felt slightly superfluous, given that Trump himself said in the not-so-distant past that he plans to take the stand.

“I’m testifying. I tell the truth,” Trump told reporters last month at his Mar-a-Lago estate. “I mean, all I can do is tell the truth. And the truth is that there’s no case. They have no case.”

This week, the former president was penalized by the court for repeatedly violating the gag order, which Merchan imposed last month. On Tuesday, Merchan ruled on a slate of alleged breaches raised by prosecutors last week. Trump was found to have broken the court-imposed order in nine out of the 10 instances flagged by the prosecution, and fined $9,000 — $1,000 for each violation. Trump was further ordered to delete the offending social media posts from his accounts.

On Thursday, Merchan heard arguments from Manhattan prosecutors on four more alleged violations of the order, and he will likely hand down a ruling in the coming days.

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