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What Judge Merchan is really doing here


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On Monday morning, Judge Juan Merchan made a point of informing Donald Trump of all the reasons why he’d rather not have to lock Trump up for any additional gag order violations. The judge pointed out that Trump is a former President (and technically a potential future President). He also pointed out that locking Trump up mid-trial could complicate trial proceedings.

By the time Merchan was done listing off all these things, some observers came away with the idea that the judge is hesitant to lock Trump up, and in fact won’t lock him up. But that’s completely the wrong interpretation of what the judge was saying.

Merchan has been doing this for a long time. He understands the weight of his words. He knows darn well that after the speech he gave to Trump on Monday morning, he has to lock him up for any future violations, or he’d lose all credibility and lose control of the trial.

Merchan just knowingly committed himself to locking Trump up for any additional gag order violations. The part he threw in about why he doesn’t want to have to lock Trump up? That’s so the judge will look impartial when he does lock Trump up for any additional gag order violations. He’ll be able to say “I told you why I didn’t want to have to lock you up, but you gave me no choice.”


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That’ll also help when Trump inevitably appeals the jail time he’s given for contempt. Trump will argue that he shouldn’t be locked up because he’s a former President and a current candidate. But the appeals court will look at the fact that Merchan was on record about not wanting to have to lock Trump up, for these reasons, and conclude that Trump simply didn’t give the judge a choice.

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