The New York judge presiding over Donald Trump's criminal hush money trial reprimanded the former president's lead lawyer, Todd Blanche, on Tuesday, as tensions rose over alleged violations of a gag order designed to protect trial participants from Trump's abuse. Judge Juan Merchan held off on deciding whether Trump should be fined $10,000 for attacking expected trial witnesses in a series of social media posts, but appeared deeply skeptical of Blanche's arguments that the posts were merely responses to political attacks on Trump.

"Mr Blanche, you're losing all credibility, I have to tell you right now," Judge Merchan said at one point. "You're losing all credibility with the court. Is there any other argument you want to make?" The admonishment, a major rebuke particularly in the midst of a criminal trial, underscores the difficulty Blanche faces in trying to explain away 10 posts that prosecutors in the office of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg alleged were in violation of the gag order.

Prosecutors, while not seeking to have Trump jailed for the alleged violations, asked that he be held in contempt and fined the maximum $1,000 for each of the 10 offending posts. They also informed the judge of their intention to file a further motion alleging that Trump again violated the gag order when he told news cameras outside the courtroom that his former lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, was a serial perjurer.

Trump has been vocal in his criticism of the 34-count indictment charging him with falsifying business records to cover up hush-money payments made to porn star Stormy Daniels, with his aggrievement particularly focused on Cohen and Daniels, both of whom are expected to testify against him at trial and are covered by the gag order.

During the hearing, Blanche argued that the majority of Trump's posts were responses to ad hominem or political attacks, while others were reposts of links to articles or views expressed by others. However, Judge Merchan appeared deeply skeptical, questioning the timing and nature of Trump's posts and inviting Blanche to provide specific examples to support his claims.

The hearing ended poorly for Trump when the judge interrupted Blanche to clarify that it was wrong to characterize one post as simply reposting a quote from Fox News host Jesse Watters, noting that Trump had "manipulated" the quote by making his own additions and putting quote marks around it.

Meanwhile, the trial continued with testimony from David Pecker, the former chief of American Media Inc., who spoke about his role in vetting allegations of an alleged affair between Trump and Playboy playmate Karen McDougal in 2016. Pecker testified that he worked with Cohen on Trump's behalf to squash unflattering stories during the 2016 election, establishing a pattern of payments made to hide negative information about Trump.

Pecker's testimony placed Cohen at the heart of the alleged "catch and kill conspiracy," with the witness describing Cohen as the go-between for Trump in fielding media stories since 2007. Pecker said he would notify Cohen about negative stories, and Cohen would then have them "killed" in another magazine or purchased to prevent their publication.