False Right-Wing Reports About Trump Trial Jury Instructions Fuel Threats Against Judge

False Right-Wing Reports About Trump Trial Jury Instructions Fuel Threats Against Judge

WASHINGTON – False reports about jury instructions in former President Donald Trump’s hush money trial have been spreading in right-wing media, leading to threats against the judge overseeing the case.

Several conservative news personalities, including some affiliated with Fox News, falsely claimed that New York State Judge Juan Merchan, as a Fox News host put it in a viral post on “They need unanimity to condemn” Trump. .

That is not true. Merchan instructed jurors Wednesday that they “must unanimously conclude that a defendant conspired to promote or prevent the election of any person to public office by unlawful means,” adding that they “need not be unanimous as to what those unlawful means were.” “.

That means jurors must unanimously agree that Trump committed a crime by participating in a criminal conspiracy to falsify records with the intent to commit one or more crimes in order to convict him. But jurors can choose from three options for what those other crimes were: violations of the Federal Election Campaign Act, falsification of other business records or violation of tax laws. Those “unlawful means” are not charges in themselves and would not result in separate convictions, so juries do not have to unanimously agree on them.

The jury instruction was complex and “nuanced” (as Fox host John Roberts attempted to clarify an hour later in another less-viewed post about X), but some right-wing accounts published false reports.

Follow live updates on the Trump trial and verdict

Responding to inaccurate reports that Trump could be convicted without unanimous agreement that he committed a crime, a user on Gab, a site popular with far-right extremists, said Wednesday that it was “time to find out where that judge lives and protesting as the left calls it.” Another user posted: “I’ve heard bad things happen to judges in their entries.” On Telegram, one user called for “a military tribunal” for Merchan, and on Steve Bannon’s official “War Room” Telegram channel, one user said Merchan “and everyone involved” should be hanged.

On another pro-Trump forum, one user said: “Merchan wants to be the merchant of death to sell more ropes, except he could easily be selling the rope that hangs him.” Another user added: “Betrayal. With the full penalty.”

On X, a right-wing influencer asked his followers which of them wanted to see Merchan locked up for treason. Another user, who identified himself as a Marine, responded: “Let me run the justice system and be a judge and prosecutor, prompt trial and justifiable punishments, funeral directors, prepare for a lot of democratic socialist elites coming your way.” “.

Trump continued to post on social media about the jury instructions Thursday morning, quoting a Fox News commentator who called the prosecution “an ‘Alice in Wonderland’ case with a Mad Hatter judge.” in which the “cherished principles of justice” had been upset. .

Time and again, the legal proceedings in all four cases against Trump have resulted in violent threats and, in at least one case, actual violence. In August, Trump supporters released the names and addresses of grand juries in Fulton County, Georgia, that indicted Trump and 18 co-defendants. In August 2022, a participant in the January 6 riot named Rickey Walter Shiffer posted calls for violence after the FBI searched Trump’s Mar-a-Lago property in Florida and then fired a nail gun at a FBI office in Cincinnati before the law killed him. application.

More recently, Trump and his allies in Congress falsely said that President Joe Biden conspired to kill Trump during the Mar-a-Lago search based on the disclosure of a standard FBI use-of-force form that limits the use of of deadly force and must be completed for each operation. In fact, federal authorities specifically planned the search for a time when Trump was known to be out of state and contacted the Secret Service in advance to make sure the plan went as smoothly as possible. Even right-wing former FBI special agents who called for the bureau’s abolition responded to the false narrative, calling the FBI’s use-of-force language “repetitive” and showing frustration that viral right-wing misinformation had forced them to be in the position of looking like they were defending the office.

Last week, Attorney General Merrick Garland called lies about the use of force policy “false” and “extremely dangerous” and noted that the same standard operations plan was used in the search of Biden’s own home ( but it did not lead to conspiracy theories that Biden was planning to have himself assassinated).