Donald Trump warned he is ‘walking a tightrope’ over judge attack
Donald Trump was warned on Wednesday that he was “walking a tightrope” after he launched a furious attack on the judge presiding over his historic criminal case in New York.
Just hours after pleading not guilty to 34 criminal charges relating to the alleged falsifying of business records, the former president took aim at judge Juan Merchan and New York district attorney Alvin Bragg in a typically bombastic speech to supporters from the ballroom of his Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida.
Despite being warned by Judge Merchan not to make comments that would “incite violence” or “create civil unrest”, Mr Trump described him as a “Trump-hating judge with a Trump-hating wife and family”.
Casting the prosecution as a politically-motivated campaign by Democrats to stop his return to the White House, Mr Trump went on to say that Mr Merchan’s daughter worked for Democrat vice-president Kamala Harris.
While some political commentators say the case, which centres on alleged hush money payments of $130,000 to the porn star Stormy Daniels, could bolster his chances of taking back the presidency, others questioned whether his attack on the judge could backfire.
Britain’s former US ambassador Lord Kim Darroch told Sky News: “Given what was said in the court room yesterday I thought he might at least back off on that. Maybe he just couldn’t help himself. But I think that’s quite dangerous.” He warned that it could influence Mr Trump’s punishment if found guilty.
The case is the first time a former American president has faced criminal charges. In a 25-minute speech, Mr Trump lashed out at Mr Bragg for bringing the criminal charges against him. He called it a “fake case” and declared himself the victim of election interference.
“I never thought anything like this could happen in America,” he said. “The only crime that I’ve committed has been to fearlessly defend our nation against those who seek to destroy it.”
Mr Trump also took fresh shots at other legal cases against him. These include US Justice Department investigations into his alleged handling of classified documents after he left the White House in early 2021 and a probe into his alleged role in the January 6 riot at the US Capitol. The case in New York, while considered less serious than some of the other cases he faces, could still lead to a jail sentence for Mr Trump.
But a conviction would not prevent him from serving as president again. Some legal experts have questioned the strength of the case which alleges Mr Trump orchestrated payments to Ms Daniels before the 2016 election to suppress stories about a relationship. The case also features claims that a second woman, Playboy model Karen McDougal, and a Trump Tower doorman also received payments to suppress stories. Mr Bragg said the alleged hush-money scheme constituted “felony crimes in New York state — no matter who you are. We cannot and will not normalise serious criminal conduct”.