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Judge gives Alvin Bragg’s office a message for Michael Cohen

Judge gives Alvin Bragg’s office a message for Michael Cohen

Judge Juan Merchan asked Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office to deliver a message to Michael Cohen ahead of his testimony in the secret trial of former President Donald Trump.

Cohen, who previously served as Trump’s lawyer, is expected to testify at the trial next week. Bragg’s office accused the former president of falsifying business records related to a hush money payment allegedly made to adult film actor Stormy Daniels before the 2016 presidential election. Bragg claims the payment was intended to prevent her from speaking publicly about her claims that she had an affair with Trump.

Trump, the presumptive 2024 Republican presidential nominee, has denied having an affair with Daniels and has pleaded not guilty to all 34 criminal charges. He maintains his innocence and accuses Bragg and other prosecutors of targeting him for political purposes, criticizing the trial as a form of election interference.

Cohen is expected to begin his testimony Monday. He allegedly made the $130,000 payment to Daniels and is a key witness in the case. His testimony could last several days, while he answers questions from prosecutors and the former president’s defense lawyers.

Trump lawyer Todd Blanche asked Merchan on Friday to ask Cohen to refrain from communicating about the matter, according to News week journalist Katherine Fung, who covered the trial from inside the courtroom.

Message from Judge Merchan to Michael Cohen
Michael Cohen in New York on December 12, 2018. Judge Juan Merchan asked Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office to order Cohen not to make public comments about Trump’s secret trial.

Eduardo Muñoz Álvarez/Getty Images

He raised concerns that Trump was subject to a silence order limiting his ability to make public statements about trial witnesses, but that Cohen, a Trump critic, was allowed to make public comments on the former president.

Cohen has indicated he would not comment publicly on the case because he is a witness, but this week he went viral during a TikTok livestream in which he appeared to be wearing a shirt showing a caricature of Trump in prison.

Merchan asked Bragg’s office to inform Cohen that he was asking him not to make any further public comments on the matter.

“I will ask the people to let Mr. Cohen know that the judge is asking him to refrain from making any further statements on this matter. This is coming from the bench and you are communicating it on behalf of the bench,” Merchan said, according to at Politico.

Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass says the People “repeatedly” asked all of their witnesses not to do so.

News week contacted Cohen through MeidasTouch, the media company that publishes his podcast Mea Culpa, for comment.

Trump criticized the silence order imposed on him, which prevents him from attacking witnesses, the jury, the prosecutors’ family or the judge. He argued that this amounted to an unfair limit on his freedom of expression in his presidential bid. Supporters of silence, however, believe it is necessary to protect the safety of those involved in the trial.