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Trump Tries Desperate Excuse to Avoid Testifying in Hush-Money Trial

The former president claims the gag order is keeping him from the stand.

Donald Trump gestures as he speaks
Peter Foley/Pool/Getty Images

As his hush-money trial proceeds, Donald Trump has been left searching for new angles with which to claim victimhood. His newest: Gag orders are unconstitutional.

Outside the New York City courthouse where his trial is taking place, Trump answered questions from the press pool on Monday. When reporters asked if he thought Michael Cohen, Trump’s former fixer now set to testify against him, was a liar, and if Trump was going to testify, the former president launched into a tirade against basic courtroom procedures.

“As you know, they’ve taken away my constitutional rights, so I’m not allowed to answer that question. This has never happened in this country before—it’s a ridiculous thing,” he responded.

Trump is referring to the gag order imposed on him by Judge Juan Merchan, which prohibits him from publicly commenting on witnesses and jurors, and was expanded after he attacked Merchan’s daughter. Trump currently owes $10,000 for his gag order violations in this trial alone—not to mention the $15,000 he owes for violating the gag order in his civil fraud trial—and could face jail time if he keeps breaking the order.

The former president is correct that the order prevents him from opining on Cohen publicly. But publicly impugning witnesses’ credibility during a trial is not a constitutional right, and Trump is hardly the first defendant to have had a gag order issued against them.

Trump has frequently claimed that the legal proceedings against him, from his impeachments to his postpresidency trials, constitute a “witch hunt.” But claiming that a prohibition on his ability to post on Truth Social or answer press poolers’ questions about key witnesses is an unprecedented violation of his rights strains credulity, to say the least.

Mitt Romney Reveals Twisted Reason Why Congress Moved to Ban TikTok

It’s not about national security, after all.

Win McNamee/Getty Images

Utah Senator Mitt Romney revealed the motivation for the bipartisan consensus to ban TikTok, and it has little to do with protecting users’ data.

Speaking at the McCain Institute on Friday alongside Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Romney lamented Israel’s inability to control the flow of information out of and about Gaza, despite its best efforts to restrict press access.

“I mean, typically the Israelis are good at P.R. What’s happened here? How have they—how have they, and we, been so ineffective at communicating the realities there and our point of view?” Romney asked Blinken, seemingly in disbelief that images of Israel’s indiscriminate bombing of Gaza have prompted outrage in the United States.

Then Romney explained that the TikTok ban overwhelmingly passed both chambers of Congress because of the widespread Palestinian advocacy on the app.

“Some wonder why there was such overwhelming support for us to shut down potentially TikTok or other entities of that nature. If you look at the postings on TikTok and the number of mentions of Palestinians relative to other social media sites, it’s overwhelmingly so among TikTok broadcasts. So I’d note that’s of real interest, and the President will get the chance to make action in that regard,” Romney said.

The admission is not exactly surprising. Republican Representative Mike Gallagher argued in November that the app was “digital fentanyl” turning young Americans into “Hamas supporters.” Still, Romney’s openness, after supporters of the ban bleated about data security and privacy concerns for months, is shocking.

Romney’s comments betray a general bipartisan disinterest in engaging Israel’s conduct in Gaza on its own terms, preferring instead to complain about protesters, interrogate university presidents, and, apparently, muse about social media’s role in boosting pro-Palestinian activism. As Israel moves closer to a catastrophic invasion of Rafah, having already banned Al Jazeera in the country, Romney and Blinken would be wise to consider whether TikTok is the real problem.

Read more about youth support for Palestine:

Tim Scott’s Election Results Answer Shows Exactly Where GOP Is Headed

Every contender for Donald Trump’s vice president is saying the same thing: Democracy doesn’t matter.

Tim Scott waves as he stands next to Donald Trump
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Senator Tim Scott over the weekend exposed exactly where the Republican Party is headed, when he refused to answer a question on whether he would accept the 2024 election results.

MSNBC’s Kristen Welker on Sunday asked the South Carolina Republican point-blank if he would accept the 2024 election results, “no matter who wins.”

Scott replied, “At the end of the day, the forty-seventh president of the United States will be President Donald Trump.” When pressed further, he said, “That is my statement.”

Scott is a top contender for Trump’s 2024 running mate. And Trump of course has long refused to say whether he’d accept election results where he lost, even in 2016, when he often complained of a “rigged election” on the campaign trail. Just weeks before November’s election, he claimed he’d accept the results only “if I win.”

In 2020, Americans saw what Trump meant with those words. He refused to concede his loss to Joe Biden, fighting the results with fake elector schemes from his lawyers and even arguably inciting an insurrection at the Capitol building on the day the country’s election results were certified. His refusal to acknowledge his loss would become the Big Lie: that the 2020 election win was stolen from him, the legitimate winner. As Tim Scott’s words demonstrate, many of his faithful supporters still believe it in earnest.

Scott’s answer sounds much like those of other contenders for Trump’s V.P. In the past, J.D. Vance and Elise Stefanik, for example, both admitted they would not have certified the 2020 election results if they were in Vice President Mike Pence’s shoes on January 6.

Scott went on in the interview to assert that the Democratic Party is supporting “abortion up until the day of birth,” only to get pushback from Welker, who noted that no Democrats have said that.

It’s not the first time that Scott has tried and failed to give an answer on abortion, as was the case in April 2023, when he could only manage a word salad in two different attempts. While this time he attempted to attack Democrats for their supposed stances, he still didn’t articulate a policy of his own. If Scott, Trump, and the rest of the GOP plan to win in November, it would be smart to actually give concrete answers, whether it’s on abortion or a peaceful transition of power.

Kristi Noem Gives Worst Answer Possible When Asked About Kim Jong Un

Noem hedged hard when asked if she had actually met the North Korean leader.

Kristi Noem stands in front of a microphone
Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Kristi Noem just dug her grave deeper over the revelation that she lied in her upcoming book about meeting North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un while she served in Congress.

Politicians’ books are typically barely read and quickly forgotten, bought back in bulk by campaigns to artificially boost sales numbers and garner good press. Noem’s is a rare exception: Her upcoming book has tanked her stock as a vice presidential contender after she revealed in it that she shot and killed her family dog, Cricket.

Now another embarrassment has surfaced during her press tour: She claimed to have met Kim when she served on the House Armed Services Committee … but there are no congressional records backing up her statement.

Face the Nation host Margaret Brennan confronted the South Dakota governor Sunday with an outlandish passage from the book about a meeting with Kim, asking straightforwardly, “Did you meet Kim Jong Un?”

“As soon as this was brought to my attention, I certainly made some changes and looked at this passage, and I’ve met with many, many world leaders,” Noem replied. When Brennan pressed for a clarification, Noem was evasive, refusing to admit that she had not, in fact, met with Kim. She talked in circles for the better part of a minute, before finally conceding that “this anecdote shouldn’t have been in the book.”

This latest debacle may prove to be a nail in the coffin of Noem’s vice presidential bid. Once Noem was seen as a favorite to join Donald Trump on the Republican 2024 ticket for her loyalty to the former president and perceived ability to shore up cratering support among women voters, but her book, apparently an animal-cruelty confessional, has all but ended her prospects.

Brennan returned to the book to ask Noem about another passage where Noem appears to call for dog murder, this time of President Biden’s dog, Commander. “Commander, say hello to Cricket,” she wrote.

“Are you doing this to try to look tough?” Brennan asked. Noem proceeded to rattle off the Biden dog’s bite statistics and called for Biden to be “held accountable.”

No dogs are safe from Noem, evidently.

Judge Warns Trump: Keep This Up and You’ll Be in Jail

The judge in Donald Trump’s hush-money trial is not playing around.

Jeenah Moon/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Donald Trump’s repeated violations of the gag order in his hush-money trial have reached their limit, Judge Juan Merchan said Monday, warning the former president that jail time would come next.

A contempt of court hearing was held for Trump Monday morning, where Merchan noted that $1,000 fines were not deterring the former president.

“Because this is now the tenth time that this Court has found Defendant in criminal contempt, spanning three separate motions, it is apparent that monetary fines have not, and will not, suffice to deter Defendant from violating this Court’s lawful orders,” Judge Merchan wrote in his ruling, adding that any following violations would result in jail time.

Last week, Trump’s attorney Susan Necheles tried to convince Merchan to approve articles before Trump would post them on his Truth Social account so he wouldn’t violate the gag order, but was rebuffed by Merchan.

“I think the best advice you can give your client is, ‘When in doubt, steer clear,’” Merchan said. Trump is facing 34 felony charges for allegedly paying off adult film actress Stormy Daniels before the 2016 election to try and cover up an affair with her.

Republican Rep. Cheers Students’ Racist Response to Gaza Protester

Representative Mike Collins doubled down on the students’ racism.

Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc/Getty Images

A Republican representative on Friday appeared to applaud racist taunting against a pro-Palestine protest at the University of Mississippi.

A group of students organized a protest against Israel’s war in Gaza at Ole Miss, as the university is commonly called, on Thursday. The group was calling for the school to divest from companies aligned with Israel, and the university had approved the protest. Protesters, though, were met—and reportedly outnumbered—by counterprotesters who jeered and laughed at them, even making racist monkey noises and gestures at a Black female protester.

Another video from a different angle shows the counterprotesters yelling “Lizzo! Lizzo!” as well as expletives and weight-based slurs at the woman.

But to Representative Mike Collins, a Republican from Georgia, this was all positive.

“Ole Miss taking care of business,” the congressman tweeted, sharing video taken from Richard Hanania, who has been criticized for espousing racist views.

Screenshot of a tweet

Collins wasn’t the first Republican to seemingly praise the counterprotesters, though. Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves tweeted video the day before, saying the audio “warms my heart.”

Screenshot of a tweet

While this protest ended peacefully as student protesters were evacuated away from danger, other demonstrations across the country, such as at UCLA and Columbia University, were met with violence from counterprotesters and law enforcement. In those cases, politicians also missed the point of the demonstrations, directing their criticism against those protesting a war entering its seventh month that has killed at least 34,622 people, including more than 14,500 children.

Key Hush-Money Witness Just Exposed Trump’s Biggest Lie Yet

Hope Hicks revealed Trump knew about the hush-money payments all along.

Donald Trump sits at a table
Curtis Means/Pool/Getty Images

Hope Hicks dished out another doozy against her former boss Donald Trump Friday afternoon.

While testifying on the stand, Hicks—a former Trump Organization employee turned Trump 2016 campaign press secretary turned White House aide—revealed that Trump had been in communication with his former fixer Michael Cohen about hush-money payments to Stormy Daniels. The thing is, Cohen had told The New York Times in February 2018 that he had sent the $130,000 payment by his own volition, and out of his own pocket.

Cohen claimed at the time that Trump had no knowledge of the payments. But Hicks recalled Trump saying that Cohen had “felt like it was his job to protect him” and “that’s what he was doing and he did it out of the kindness of his own heart and he never told anybody about it.”

But, when pressed by the prosecution, Hicks confessed that such a charitable act did seem “out of character” for the bombastic attorney.

“I didn’t know Michael to be an especially charitable person or selfless person,” Hicks said.

Still, even after claiming he had no knowledge of the hush-money payments, Trump understood it was prudent to bury the whole thing before the election.

“Mr. Trump’s opinion was that it was better to be dealing with it now and it would’ve been bad to have that story come out before the election,” she said.

This piece of testimony could prove crucial, according to MSNBC legal analyst Lisa Rubin. Even though Hicks did not call Trump a liar outright, she did reveal that his current claims about the hush-money deal are dubious at best.

Earlier in the day, Hicks described Trump as a boss who was “very involved” and that the communications arm of Trump’s 2016 presidential bid was always “following his lead.”

Hicks continued to say that she had met David Pecker, the former publisher of the National Enquirer and former CEO of its parent company, American Media Inc., several times, and knew of Pecker as a “friend of Mr. Trump.” She noted that she had been present for Trump’s phone calls with Pecker, including ones about some of the Enquirer’s hit pieces on Trump’s GOP opponents in the 2016 race.

Notably, Hicks specified that although she is testifying in the trial under subpoena, she is paying for her own legal representation and hasn’t spoken to Trump in nearly two years.

Hope Hicks: Access Hollywood Tape Had Trumpworld Totally Freaked Out

Although Donald Trump downplayed the tape, his advisers were panicking.

Hope Hicks is seen in profile
Alex Wong/Getty Images

The 2016 release of the infamous Access Hollywood tape, in which Donald Trump made lewd comments about women to TV host Billy Bush, bothered Trump and his campaign a lot more than they told the public, his former aide Hope Hicks testified in court Friday during Trump’s hush-money trial. 

Hicks served as press secretary for the campaign during that time. She testified that Trump learned about the tape when then–Washington Post reporter David Farenthold emailed the campaign with a partial transcript, asking for comment. The prosecutor asked Hicks what her first reaction was, to which Hicks replied that she was “very concerned.” 

She forwarded the email with “FW: URGENT WashPost query” as the subject line to campaign leaders Jason Miller, David Bossie, Kellyanne Conway, and Steve Bannon. The text of the email read:


1) [...] Need to hear the tape to be sure.

2) [...] Deny, deny, deny.”

Hicks testified that she thought the tape’s release would be a “massive story” leading the news cycle for at least several days. After watching Trump’s video response to the tape, which was posted to Twitter (now called X) on October 8, 2016, Hicks agreed with a prosecutor’s statement that Trump’s words downplaying the tape were very different from the actions the campaign took. She noted that stories about the tape even pushed a Category 4 hurricane out of the news. 

Prosecutors hope Hicks’s testimony can help them make the case that Donald Trump’s campaign went into a crisis mode after the release of the Access Hollywood tape, giving them reason to try to cover up other allegations of Trump’s extramarital affairs. However, some of those allegations were deemed inadmissible in the trial by Judge Juan Merchan. 

Earlier in her testimony, Hicks noted that Trump had a close, hands-on role in the campaign’s words and statements.

“He knew what he wanted to say and how we wanted to say it. We were always following his lead,” Hicks said. 

Trump is accused of trying to cover up an affair with adult film actress Stormy Daniels before the 2016 election by paying her off through his attorney and fixer Michael Cohen, and is facing 34 felony charges for allegedly falsifying business records with the intent to further an underlying crime. Daniels and Cohen have yet to testify, so the most damaging information to Trump’s case may be yet to come. 

Hope Hicks Drops Major Bomb on Trump’s Main Hush-Money Defense

The key witness wrecked Trump’s main defense just minutes into her testimony.

Donald Trump and Hope Hicks shake hands
Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Another star witness in Donald Trump’s first criminal trial has opened up about the former president’s involvement in his staff’s communications, adding yet another dent to Trump’s legal defense.

Hope Hicks, a former Trump Organization employee turned Trump White House communications director, testified on Friday that she spoke with Trump every day while serving as the press secretary to his presidential campaign. She said that he was “very involved” and that the communications arm of Trump’s 2016 bid was always “following his lead.”

“He knew what he wanted to say and how we wanted to say it,” Hicks told the court. “We were always following his lead.”

Hicks continued to say that she had met David Pecker, the former publisher of the National Enquirer and former CEO of its parent company, American Media Inc., several times, and knew of Pecker as a “friend of Mr. Trump.” She noted that she had been present for Trump’s phone calls with Pecker, including ones about some of the Enquirer’s coverage, including hit pieces on one of Trump’s GOP opponents in the 2016 race, Dr. Ben Carson.

But she also said that she didn’t recall being in attendance at meetings in Trump Tower between Pecker and her former boss.

“Were you ever in and out of [Trump’s] office when Mr. Pecker was meeting with Mr. Trump at Trump Tower?” prosecutor Matthew Colangelo asked.

“I don’t have a recollection of that, but it’s certainly possible,” she said.

Still, Hicks’s testimony about her boss’s behavior runs counter to a portrait of Trump that his legal defense has tried to paint—claiming that Trump was thoroughly distanced from any knowledge of hush-money payments to his alleged mistress, porn actress Stormy Daniels, or any attempt to bury her story.

Notably, Hicks specified that although she is testifying in the trial under subpoena, she is paying for her own legal representation and hasn’t spoken to Trump in nearly two years.

Trump is accused of using his former fixer Michael Cohen to sweep an affair with Daniels under the rug ahead of the 2016 presidential election. The Republican presidential nominee faces 34 felony charges in this case for allegedly falsifying business records with the intent to further an underlying crime. Trump has pleaded not guilty on all counts.

New Orleans Catholic Church Exposed for Ties to Child Sex-Trafficking

Priests in the Archdiocese of New Orleans allegedly transported children out of state to abuse them.

A Catholic cross
Paul Bersebach/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register/Getty Images

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans has come under fire as the target of a Louisiana sex-trafficking probe, according to an 11-page search warrant made public Tuesday. But a recent ruling by the Louisiana Supreme Court might stand in the way of any victims seeking to hold the church accountable.

The document requested that the archdiocese hand over “ANY and ALL documents that pertain in any way to the sexual abuse of a minor by clergy members employed or otherwise associated with the Archdiocese of New Orleans,” specifying that those records violate the state’s child sex-trafficking laws.

The warrant also demands any and all communications between Gregory Aymond, the archbishop of New Orleans, and “ANY department within the Vatican pertaining to child sexual abuse.”

Aymand reportedly led a cover-up of the sprawling child sex-trafficking scheme that targeted children for several decades, going so far as to ignore pleas by his advisers to punish and publicly reveal the identities of priests and deacons in at least six separate cases that the church had determined were credible accusations of sexual misconduct with minors, according to a bombshell 48-page memorandum leaked in 2023 to The Guardian.

The warrant, which was filed last week, included disturbing details of the pedophilic scheme—including that, in some instances, “‘gifts’ were given to abuse victims by the accused [molesters] with instructions to pass on or give the gift to certain priests at the next school or church,” noting that the “‘gift’ was a form of signaling to another priest that the person was a target for sexual abuse.” Abuse was also a common occurrence at the New Orleans Seminary, where children were encouraged to skinny dip in front of other members of the Archdiocese before being assaulted, according to the warrant.

But a judgment by the Bayou State’s highest court has effectively stripped sexual assault survivors of an avenue of justice against the church. The judges ruled 3–4 in March that it’s the due process rights of priests and their enablers to not be held accountable in instances of sexual assault.

The case, Bienvenu v. Diocese of Lafayette, was brought by Douglas Bienvenu and several other plaintiffs who claimed they were sexually molested by a Roman Catholic priest during the 1970s, when they were between the ages of 8 and 14.

In its majority opinion, issued on March 22, the court argued that while the facts of the case were largely undisputed, the priest—and the religious institution he was a part of—was actually protected under the U.S. Constitution’s due process clause. Therefore, a sexual assault “look-back” window established by the Louisiana legislature in 2021 was actually, according to the court, unconstitutional.