Donald Trump has compared himself to Nelson Mandela as the prospect of jail looms for allegedly violating a gag order in his hush money trial.

Writing on his own social media platform Truth Social, Trump attacked presiding New York State Supreme Court Judge Juan Merchan, saying: “I will gladly become a Modern Day Nelson Mandela — It will be my GREAT HONOR.”

Trump was held in contempt of court Tuesday and fined $9,000 for repeatedly violating a gag order that barred him from making public statements about witnesses, jurors, and some others connected to his New York hush-money case. If he does it again, the judge warned, he could be jailed.

Prosecutors had alleged 10 violations, but New York Judge Juan Merchan found there were nine. Trump stared down at the table in front of him as the judge read the ruling, frowning slightly.

It isn’t the first time Trump has compared himself to the anti-Apartheid hero Mandela, indulging in a similar rant in October. Last week he took to Truth Social to compare his legal troubles to the persecution of Jesus Christ.

Merchan’s warning was a stinging rebuke of the presumptive Republican presidential nominee’s insistence that he was exercising his free speech rights and a reminder that he’s a criminal defendant subject to the harsh realities of trial procedure. And the judge’s remarkable threat to jail a former president signaled that Trump’s already precarious legal standing could further spiral depending on his behavior during the remainder of the trial.

Addressing Trump’s Mandela comments, Biden campaign spokesperson Jasmine Harris said: “Imagine being so self-centered that you compare yourself to Jesus Christ and Nelson Mandela all within the span of little more than a week: that’s Donald Trump for you.”

Merchan wrote that he is “keenly aware of, and protective of,” Trump’s First Amendment rights, “particularly given his candidacy for the office of President of the United States.” He wrote: “It is critically important that defendant’s legitimate free speech rights not be curtailed, that he be able to fully campaign for the office which he seeks and that he be able to respond and defend himself against political attacks.”

Still, he warned that the court would not tolerate “willful violations of its lawful orders and that if necessary and appropriate under the circumstances, it will impose an incarceration punishment.” With that statement, the judge drew nearer the specter of Trump becoming the first former president of the United States behind bars.

“This gag order is totally unconstitutional,” Trump said as the court adjourned after a day that included testimony from a Hollywood lawyer who negotiated two of the hush money deals at issue in the case. “I’m the Republican candidate for president of the United States … and I’m sitting in a courthouse all day long listening to this stuff.”



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