Judge to Donald Trump: STFU or Go to Jail

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Donald Trump learned a fundamental legal lesson Friday morning: Actions do have consequences. The former president is currently staring down the very real prospect of jail time after he “blatantly” violated a gag order imposed in his New York bank fraud trial, reported The Daily Beast.

“In the current overheated climate, incendiary comments can and in some cases already [have], led to serious physical harm and worse,” said Justice Arthur F. Engoron as the trial began on Friday, demanding that Trump’s legal team explain the former president’s recent actions. Engoron would go on to levy a $5,000 fine on Trump, “payable to the New York Lawyers’ Fund for Client Protection,” according to the order.

At issue was a post made by Trump on Truth Social earlier this month, in which he claimed that Engoron’s principal law clerk, Allison Greenfield, was dating Senator Chuck Schumer. Trump also shared Greenfield’s Instagram details, effectively ushering a scourge of far-right sympathizers onto her social media accounts. Then, hours after Engoron issued his gag order, Trump launched more vitriol at the judge.

Trump attorney Chris Kise claimed the gag order was violated in error, blaming Trump’s “campaign machinery” for forgetting to remove a web page that mirrored the Truth Social post, which Trump had deleted. That answer wasn’t enough for the “typically easygoing” judge, who noted that the 2024 Republican presidential candidate is “still responsible for the large machine.”

“Despite this clear order, last night I learned that the subject of the offending post was never removed from the website DonaldJTrump.com, and in fact had been on that website for the past 17 days. I understand that it was removed late last night, but only in response to email from this court,” Engoron noted.

To say that this all could have been avoided is an understatement. The threat of jail time is an interesting turn in a civil case that was never actually going to lead to Trump facing the prospect of jail time. Rather, the case challenges the validity of his real estate business, the Trump Organization, and some of its dealings.

Engoron hasn’t been the only judge to slap Trump with a court order. On Tuesday, Judge Tanya Chutkan imposed another gag order on the former president in his D.C. trial, which focuses on his effort to subvert the 2020 election. In a statement, Chutkan said that Trump’s First Amendment protections “yield to the administration of justice” and that his presidential candidacy does not give him “carte blanche” to vilify public servants “who are simply doing their job.”

Engoron went to some lengths to impress upon Trump that there would be further consequences for further violations: “Donald Trump has received ample warning from this Court as to the possible repercussions of violating the gag order,” the judge wrote. “He specifically acknowledged that he understood and would abide by it.” “This Court is way beyond the ‘warning’ stage,” he added.

* This post has been updated.