Former President Donald Trump has been barred from making public comments about court staff in his ongoing civil fraud trial, after a New York appellate court sided with the judge in the case who imposed the gag order after Trump disparaged his clerk, reinstating it. Attorneys for Trump argued the gag order violated U.S. and New York constitutional protections for free speech. They noted that the clerk, Allison Greenfield, is a Democrat, and that she sits next to the judge, often passing him notes.
On the second day of the trial, Oct. 3, New York Judge Arthur Engoron issued a limited gag order after Trump published a social media post about his clerk. Over the next month, Trump and his campaign violated the gag order twice, fining him $15,000. Engoron eventually broadened the order to bar attorneys in the case from commenting on court staff.
After a panel of judges in the Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court considered Trump’s request to have the gag order lifted, it was temporarily stayed on Nov. 16. The appeals court ruled against Trump and lifted the stay in a brief order on Thursday; however Judge Engoron immediately advised lawyers in the case that he expects the ruling to be followed: “I intend to enforce the gag orders rigorously and vigorously, and I want to make sure counsel informs their client.”
Trump attorney Christopher Kise said the decision to reinstate the gag order represented “a tragic day for the rule of law … In a country where the First Amendment is sacrosanct, President Trump may not even comment on why he thinks he cannot get a fair trial. Hard to imagine a more unfair process and hard to believe this is happening in America.”
Trump, his two adult sons and their company have already been found liable for fraud in the case, in which they’re accused of benefiting at least $250 million through a decade-long scheme to artificially inflate Trump’s net worth during deals with banks and insurers. The former president and his co-defendants have denied all wrongdoing, blaming accountants for any inaccuracies in their financial statements. President Trump is expected to be re-called as a witness by his own lawyers on Dec. 11.
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