Trump Lawyer Loses All Credibility With Trial Judge

INSIDE: Mitt Romney ... Mitch McConnell ... Lara Trump
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - APRIL 18: Todd Blanche, attorney for former U.S. President Donald Trump, sits in the courtroom during Trump's criminal trial as jury selection continues at Manhattan Criminal Court on April 18, 2... NEW YORK, NEW YORK - APRIL 18: Todd Blanche, attorney for former U.S. President Donald Trump, sits in the courtroom during Trump's criminal trial as jury selection continues at Manhattan Criminal Court on April 18, 2024 in New York City. Trump was charged with 34 counts of falsifying business records last year, which prosecutors say was an effort to hide a potential sex scandal, both before and after the 2016 presidential election. Trump is the first former U.S. president to face trial on criminal charges. (Photo by Jeenah Moon-Pool/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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A lot of things happened. Here are some of the things. This is TPM’s Morning Memo. Sign up for the email version.

Gag Order Ruling Could Come At Any Time

Judge Juan Merchan heard arguments Tuesday about whether Trump had or had not already violated the gag order against him in the case multiple times. He didn’t rule from the bench, but with no trial today, I’d be surprised if he didn’t issue his ruling before trial resumes tomorrow.

Merchan was unsparing in his criticisms of the arguments made by Trump lawyer Todd Blanche, at one point telling him: “You’re losing all credibility with the court.” (The jury was not present for this exchange.) Merchan gave no indication how he would rule or the punishment, if any, he would impose.

I have no sympathy for Blanche or the role he’s put himself in, but clearly his effort to channel Trump himself is antagonizing the judge. No surprise there, really. Trump is his own worst enemy, and he’s taking a scorched-earth approach to the trial that is eliciting little sympathy from anyone and foreclosing viable defenses that, while they wouldn’t necessarily lead to acquittal, might soften the blow of a conviction.

Trump is all in on demonizing the whole process, denigrating anyone associated with it, and delegitimizing the court itself. It’s an all-or-nothing approach that would drive most criminal defense attorneys mad.

As if to make the point, Trump arguably violated the gag order again in an appearance on local TV in Pennsylvania later in the day.

Stay tuned today for a possible ruling from Merchan.

No Trial Today

After two partial days of testimony, the hush-money trial stands in recess today. It will resume Thursday.

Because of Passover and a juror’s dental issue, we’ve had a halting start to the trial proper. Former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker has only testified for a couple of hours so far.

Things ended yesterday with a bit of cliffhanger, as prosecutors had walked Pecker to the cusp of testifying about the Stormy Daniels story. Expect them to pick back up there tomorrow.

Trump And The Tabloid World He Came From

David Pecker’s testimony pulled back the curtain on the bizarro, self-aggrandizing world of Trump and the tabloid world from which he emerged. We knew all of this already, in a way, but it was striking to hear it straight from one of the principal operators in that seedy-but-lucrative publishing backwater:

  • WaPo: A secret pact at Trump Tower helped kill bad stories in 2016
  • Philip Bump: Ted Cruz spotted the Trump-National Enquirer alliance in 2016
  • WaPo: Trump’s long, strange history with the tabloids

Coverage Tips

For the dedicated obsessives, a few deep-dive links:

To its credit, the New York court system will be posting daily transcripts of the trial here (it looks like we’ll get those on the following day, not the same day, but beggars can’t be choosers).

Quote Of The Day

SCOTUS Takes Up Trump Immunity Claim Thursday

Ahead of tomorrow’s momentous Supreme Court oral arguments over Donald Trump’s strained claim of presidential immunity, Melissa Murray and Andrew Weissmann argue the high court has already botched the case.

Trump Executive Privilege Claims May See Light Of Day

Politico won an appeals court ruling ordering the unsealing of the court records in as many as five battles over executive privilege that Special Counsel Jack Smith fought to get high-level Trump White House officials to testify in his investigations of Trump.

Ukraine Aid Passes Senate

The Senate passed the foreign aid package that includes military assistance to Ukraine late Tuesday but not before Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) happily used the occasion of the bill’s imminent passage to slam Tucker Carlson:

Abortion Watch

  • The Supreme Court takes up another post-Dobbs abortion case today. The issue is whether a federal law requiring emergency abortions to protect pregnant patients in medical distress overrides Idaho’s abortion ban. TPM’s Kate Riga will be on our coverage.
  • Arizona Democratic legislators are expected to try today for a third time to repeal the state’s newly revived Civl War-era abortion ban.
  • President Biden ripped Trump on abortion in a Tampa speech:

2024 Ephemera

Who Is ‘We’ Exactly?

The Republican National Committee co-chair and daughter of its presumptive presidential nominee is just out there touting the Big Lie and threatening voters with prosecution:

Great Work, Tennessee


Protesters chanted “Blood on your hands” at Tennessee House Republicans on Tuesday after they passed a bill that would allow some teachers and staff to carry concealed handguns on public school grounds, and bar parents and other teachers from knowing who was armed.

Huge Legal And Business News

The Federal Trade Commission banned noncompete agreements for most employees in a remarkable 3-2 vote Tuesday.

In my brief legal career 20 years ago, I spent more time litigating noncompete agreements (on both sides) than on any other single area of law. It was a weird and rapidly evolving area of the law back then. Weird because noncompete agreements were generally disfavored at law as anti-competitive (duh!), but over time numerous exceptions had been carved out that left plenty of room both for trying to enforce them and trying to defend against their enforcement. Hence, lots of litigation.

My understanding is the new FTC rule still allows the kind of noncompetes I was typically dealing with: binding either top executives or former owners who had signed a noncompete as part of the sale of their business. Because of more equal bargaining power, those types of noncompetes are less objectionable from a public policy point of view.

The FTC targets noncompetes for employees, whose bargaining power is more limited and for whom the widespread and indiscriminate use of noncompete agreements does begin to have real anticompetitive effects in the labor market.

Have A Whimsical Day!

Kites fly during the 37th International Kite Festival (RICV), at the beach of Berck-sur-Mer, northern France, on April 23, 2024. (Photo by Sameer Al-DOUMY / AFP) (Photo by SAMEER AL-DOUMY/AFP via Getty Images)

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