Hush-Money Judge Unleashes on Trump Lawyer Over His Closing Arguments

Judge Juan Merchan ripped into Donald Trump attorney Todd Blanche over his closing arguments during the former president’s hush-money trial Tuesday.

Blanche told the jurors that Trump could be sent to prison if convicted, drawing the ire of the prosecution, as well as Merchan. Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass called Blanche’s comment a “blatant” and “inappropriate move” by the defense, and Merchan concurred.

“I think that comment was outrageous, Mr. Blanche. You know as someone who has been a prosecutor that it’s simply not allowed, period. It’s hard to see how that was an accident,” Merchan said, once the jurors had been dismissed for lunch. Upon Steinglass’s request, Merchan agreed to give a curative instruction to the jury when they returned.

Merchan told the jury that Blanche’s comment was “improper, and you must disregard it.”

“If there is a verdict of guilty, it will be up to me to impose a sentence,” Merchan said, adding that a “prison sentence is not required in the event of a guilty verdict.”

Former Deputy Assistant Attorney General Harry Litman said this was embarrassing for Blanche.

It’s no secret that Trump faces jail time in this trial, but mentioning a potential sentence to a jury is considered a bad idea in criminal law. It’s not the first misstep for Blanche in this case, though. He’s been admonished by Merchan before when trying to come up with excuses for Trump to evade his gag order. He also had to be corrected by witness Michael Cohen during a cross-examination, and embarrassed himself reading insults in court. These missteps, as Merchan noted, should not be coming from someone who is a former federal prosecutor.

Trump is on trial for trying to cover up an affair with adult film actress Stormy Daniels before the 2016 election by paying her off with Cohen’s help. The Republican presidential nominee faces 34 felony charges for allegedly falsifying business records with the intent to further an underlying crime, and has pleaded not guilty to all charges.