Judge corrects Trump’s claim that gag order prevents his testimony

The judge handling former President Trump’s hush money case clarified Friday that Trump is allowed to testify during the trial, correcting the former president’s assertion a day earlier that a gag order prevented him from doing so.

Judge Juan Merchan at the start of Friday’s proceedings in the case said it had come to his attention that there may be a misunderstanding about the gag order and Trump’s ability to testify, calling it important to clear up.

“I want to stress Mr. Trump that you have an absolute right to testify at trial,” Merchan said before the jury was brought into the room. “Just as you have the absolute right not to testify.”

Merchan noted that the gag order does not prevent him from testifying and only applies to statements he makes outside of court.

The judge’s comments came after Trump, speaking to press after Thursday’s proceedings had adjourned, was asked about the testimony of Keith Davidson.

“Well I’m not allowed to testify. I’m under a gag order. I guess,” he said as he looked at his attorney, Todd Blanche, who nodded.

“I’m not allowed to testify because this judge, who’s totally conflicted, has me under an unconstitutional gag order,” Trump added. “Nobody’s ever had that before, and we don’t like it, and it’s not fair.”

The former president is barred from making public statements about jurors and witnesses concerning their involvement in the case. Trump also cannot attack court staff, line prosecutors or their families as well as the families of the judge and district attorney with the intent to materially interfere with the case. Merchan earlier this week fined Trump $9,000 for repeated violations of the gag order.

Trump has in the past repeatedly said he is open to testifying at his own trial, including as recently as April 12 after a meeting with Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) at his Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida.

“Yeah I would testify, absolutely,” Trump said at Mar-a-Lago. “It’s a scam. It’s a scam, that’s not a trial.”

Zach Schonfeld contributed

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