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Donald Trump is under another gag order. What happens if he violates it?

Judge Arthur Engoron imposed relatively low-level fines when Trump violated the gag order in the civil fraud case. What would Judge Juan Merchan do?

By

Judge Juan Merchan imposed a gag order Tuesday on Donald Trump, ahead of the hush money trial set for April 15. Reading Merchan’s decision, in which he cited the defendant’s record of “threatening” statements against people across the legal system, it’s easy to understand why he took that step.

But how will the judge enforce it? If Trump violates the order, then this ceases to be an academic musing and becomes a question of what the order was worth in the first place.

We saw what happened in the civil fraud case. Trump violated Judge Arthur Engoron’s order multiple times, only to receive relatively low-level fines for a man of his supposed wealth. Engoron had threatened far more severe sanctions, including imprisonment, but that never happened — and a judge may be particularly cautious about taking such a drastic step against a candidate running for president. But at the same time, a judge can only respond to the severity of the defendant's actions, no matter who they are.

Trump has a track record here, including attacking the judge in the Trump University case; the judge in his civil fraud trial, as well as that judge's law clerk and the judge's wife; the grand jury forewoman in his Georgia election case; and Merchan's daughter. In some cases, Trump's attacks have led to serious threats against the people he's named.

Merchan didn’t specify how he would enforce the order against the former president and presumptive GOP nominee. But if history is any guide, it may not be long until Trump tests the judge presiding over what’s set to be his first criminal trial. If that happens, Merchan’s response will tell us what he thinks his order is worth.?

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