A New York appeals court has reinstated a gag order against Donald Trump in his civil fraud trial, prohibiting him from making comments about court personnel. The decision came after Trump repeatedly disparaged a law clerk involved in the trial. Trial judge Arthur Engoron, who originally imposed the gag order, has now vowed to vigorously enforce it.
Trump’s attorney, Christopher Kise, expressed disappointment, stating, “A tragic day for the rule of law.” Steven Cheung, a spokesperson for Trump’s 2024 presidential campaign, claimed that the gag order was an attempt at election interference, which he believes is failing miserably.
The gag order was initially put in place on October 3rd when Trump made derogatory comments about the judge’s law clerk on social media. The posts contained baseless allegations about the clerk’s personal life and were made during the second day of the trial.
The trial, brought forward by New York Attorney General Letitia James, accuses Trump of inflating his wealth on financial statements to secure loans and business deals.
Trump has denied any wrongdoing and argues that the lawsuit is a politically motivated attack orchestrated by James and furthered by Engoron, who are both Democrats. Throughout the trial, Trump repeatedly violated the gag order, resulting in fines of $15,000. The order was later expanded to include lawyers after Trump’s attorneys questioned the law clerk’s involvement in the proceedings.
Trump’s legal team challenged the gag order, alleging an abuse of power by Judge Engoron. However, state lawyers defended the restriction, claiming it was necessary to protect the court staff. According to court security, the law clerk, Allison Greenfield, has been bombarded with harassing messages and calls, including antisemitic ones.
In response, Trump’s lawyers argued that while the messages were reprehensible, their client should not be silenced due to the behavior of others. They maintained that Trump never called for violence against Greenfield and that the gag order violated his freedom of speech rights. They also argued that as a presidential front-runner and a defendant on trial, Trump should be allowed to comment on perceived bias.
Despite the gag order being temporarily suspended, Trump continued to make posts about Greenfield up until Wednesday, referencing her as the “very disturbed and angry law clerk.” He also criticized the judge’s family, alleging that his wife had made critical social media posts about him. However, court system spokesperson Al Baker confirmed that these claims were false.
Judge Engoron had previously ruled that Trump and other defendants had engaged in fraud, leading to the appointment of a receiver to oversee some of Trump’s properties.
However, an appeals court has currently put this order on hold. The trial focuses on remaining claims of conspiracy, insurance fraud, and falsifying business records, with James seeking over $300 million in penalties and a ban on Trump doing business in New York.
Trump is scheduled to testify for the second time on December 11th, with all testimonies expected to conclude shortly after. Submissions and closing arguments will follow in January, and Judge Engoron hopes to reach a decision by the end of that month.