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Trump is currently on trial for falsifying financial records. New York law apparently requires him to be present during the trial.

What happens if Trump decides he's not going to attend anyway? It looks like similar things have happened in the past - c.f. this Politics SE question where Trump aides defied subpoenas to testify - and nothing seems to have happened. But "nothing happens" seems like it makes the law toothless, and besides, Trump wouldn't be complaining about not being able to campaign while the trial is in progress.

I'm looking for a legal answer.

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    Looking at Trump's antics as an outsider - it would appear that he is continually and quite plainly acting in contempt of court eg by referring to a judge as "crooked" etc. But the courts take no action, other than to impose "gag orders", which raise yet further legal issues and opportunity for delay. In short he makes a mockery of the judicial system. In the UK a judge has power to send a defendant to prison for contempt, where they remain until they "purge their contempt".
    – WS2
    Commented Apr 19 at 8:13
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    @WS2 The US has much more stringent protections of free speech than pretty much anywhere. Publicly insulting, questioning, etc. the judge and prosecutor are protected speech. The ability to criticize the government without fear of reprisal from said government is perhaps the number one goal of (our) freedom of speech. It's speech about witnesses, some evidence, and courtroom staff that might not be protected. Which he flaunts or pushes the limits of. Commented Apr 19 at 10:33
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    @zibadawatimmy Would a teenage black youth, with a string of convictions to his name, accused of stealing a car, enjoy the same freedom of speech rights to call the judge crooked, insult the judge's daughter, and claim on social media that certain members of the jury had got it in for him? Does the first amendment protect such people? Does America believe in freedom of speech to that degree?
    – WS2
    Commented Apr 19 at 15:30
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    @WS2 It's just like Trump says, we have a double standard. You don't see many black youth being indicted for fraud and campaign finance violations, it's a conspiracy against perfect former presidents who have had their re-election stolen from them.
    – Barmar
    Commented Apr 19 at 17:25
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    @Barmar the perfect former president is flawed on one thing: doesn't know what a witch hunt is. If a witch hunt was going on, there would be many people suspected of a particular crime, not one person suspected of many crimes. Commented Apr 19 at 23:55

2 Answers 2

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Yes, but …

  1. If he waives his right, and the prosecution doesn’t object, the court may allow him not to be there.

  2. If he’s too disruptive, he can be barred by the court.

I would expect that if Trump doesn’t want to be there, he’ll do the paperwork, the prosecution won’t object, and the court will allow it.

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In addition to the options set forth in the correct answer of DaleM (and the correct comment to that answer by Trish), the Court can issue a warrant for his arrest and stop the trial in the meantime while he is arrested, if it wants to do so.

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