Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner. Facebook Messenger An icon of the facebook messenger app logo. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Facebook Messenger An icon of the Twitter app logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. WhatsApp Messenger An icon of the Whatsapp messenger app logo. Email An icon of an mail envelope. Copy link A decentered black square over a white square.

Donald Trump fined again over gagging order violation in hush money case

Former US president Donald Trump appeared in court in Manhattan (AP)
Former US president Donald Trump appeared in court in Manhattan (AP)

The judge presiding over Donald Trump’s hush money trial has fined him 1,000 dollars (£800) and warned of jail time for future gagging order violations, while jurors heard detailed evidence for the first time about the financial reimbursements at the centre of the case.

The evidence from Jeffrey McConney, the former Trump Organisation controller, provided a mechanical but vital recitation of how the company reimbursed payments meant to suppress embarrassing stories from surfacing during the 2016 presidential campaign and then logged them as legal expenses in a manner that Manhattan prosecutors said broke the law.

Mr McConney’s appearance came as the first criminal trial involving a former US president, entered its third week of evidence. It yielded an important building block for prosecutors trying to pull back the curtain on the transactions designed to protect Trump’s presidential bid during a pivotal stretch of the race.

Trump Hush Money
Trump defence lawyer Emil Bove cross-examines Jeffrey McConney (Elizabeth Williams/AP)

Mr McConney, who told jurors that reimbursement cheques were drawn from Trump’s personal accounts, also provided evidence that could help the defence, acknowledging, for instance, that Trump never asked him to log the reimbursements as legal expenses or discussed the matter with him.

His evidence followed a warning from Judge Juan M Merchan that additional violations of a gagging order barring Trump from inflammatory out-of-court comments about witnesses, jurors and others closely connected to the case could result in jail time.

The 1,000 dollar fine imposed on Monday was the second time since the trial began last month that Trump has been sanctioned for violating the gagging order. He was fined 9,000 dollars last week – 1,000 dollars for each of nine violations.

“It appears that the 1,000 dollar fines are not serving as a deterrent. Therefore going forward, this court will have to consider a jail sanction,” Judge Merchan said before jurors were brought into the courtroom.

Trump’s statements, the judge 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.”

Donald Trump
Trump speaks to members of the media before entering the courtroom at Manhattan criminal court (Julia Nikhinson/AP)

Trump sat forward in his seat, glowering at the judge as he handed down the ruling. When the judge finished speaking, Trump shook his head twice and crossed his arms.

“The last thing I want to do is put you in jail,” Judge Merchan said. “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.”

The latest violation stems from an April 22 interview with television channel Real America’s Voice in which Trump criticised the speed at which the jury was picked, and claimed that it was stacked with Democrats.

Once evidence resumed, Mr McConney recounted conversations with longtime Trump Organisation finance chief Allen Weisselberg in January 2017 about reimbursing Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer and personal fixer, for a 130,000 dollar payment intended to buy the silence of a porn actress who has said she had a sexual encounter with Trump a decade earlier.

Mr Weisselberg “said we had to get some money to Michael, we had to reimburse Michael. He tossed a pad toward me, and I started taking notes on what he said”, Mr McConney told the court. “That’s how I found out about it.

Stormy Daniels
The charges relate to a payment allegedly made to Stormy Daniels (Markus Schreiber/AP)

“He kind of threw the pad at me and said, ‘Take this down’.”

Mr McConney, who worked for Trump’s company for about 36 years, retiring last year after he was granted immunity to give evidence for the prosecution at the Trump Organisation’s New York criminal tax fraud trial.

A bank statement displayed in court showed Cohen paying 130,000 dollars to Keith Davidson, the lawyer for porn actor Stormy Daniels, on October 27 2016 out of an account for an entity Cohen created for the purpose.

Mr Weisselberg’s handwritten notes about reimbursing Cohen were stapled to the bank statement in the company’s files, Mr McConney said. Those notes spell out a plan to pay Cohen 420,000 dollars, which included a base reimbursement that was doubled to reflect anticipated taxes as well as a 60,000 dollar bonus and an expense that prosecutors have described as a technology contract.

Mr McConney’s own notes, taken on the notepad he said Mr Weisselberg threw at him, were also shown in court. After calculations that laid out that Cohen would get 35,000 dollars a month for 12 months, Mr McConney wrote “wire monthly from DJT”.

Michael Cohen
Michael Cohen is the star witness for the prosecution (Seth Wenig/AP)

Asked what that meant, he said: “That was out of the president’s personal bank account.”

Trump is accused of falsifying business records by labelling the money paid to Cohen in his company’s records as legal fees. Prosecutors contend that by paying him income and giving him extra to account for taxes, the Trump executives were able conceal the reimbursement.

Mr McConney said he had instructed an accounting department employee to record the reimbursements to Cohen as a legal expense.

But he acknowledged under cross-examination that Trump never directed him to log Cohen’s payments as legal expenses, nor did Mr Weisselberg relay to him that Trump wanted them logged that way.

He said he never spoke to Trump about the reimbursement issue. Defence lawyer Emil Bove also suggested to Mr McConney that the “legal expenses” label was not duplicitous because Cohen was in fact a lawyer.

“OK,” Mr McConney responded, prompting laughter throughout the courtroom. “Sure. Yes.”

Prosecutors are building towards their star witness, Cohen, who pleaded guilty to federal charges related to the hush money payments.