"This is on purpose": Experts alarmed after filing reveals shocking extent of Trump-inspired threats

Arthur Engoron Brendan McDermid-Pool/Getty Images
Arthur Engoron Brendan McDermid-Pool/Getty Images
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The office of the New York judge overseeing Donald Trump's civil fraud trial has received an onslaught of death threats and antisemitic abuse in the wake of the former president's online attacks.

New York Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron and his principal law clerk, Allison Greenfield have been bombarded with hundreds of threatening, harassing and disparaging telephone and social media messages, according to a new court filing reported by The Guardian. New York state court system attorneys in the filing argued for the imposition of gag orders on Trump, citing the “serious and credible” threats against Engoron and Greenfield.

Transcribed voicemails, which were disclosed in the filing, exposed the extent of the vitriol directed at the duo. Several death threats came alongside racist and sexist attacks. “I mean, honestly, you should be assassinated,” one said. “You should be killed. You should be not assassin executed [sic]. You should be executed.”

“Resign now, you dirty, treasonous piece of trash snake. We are going to get you and anyone of you dirty, backstabbing, lying, cheating American. You are nothing but a bunch of communists. We are coming to remove you permanently," said another.

Last month, the former president posted an image of Greenfield on his social media platform Truth Social falsely describing her as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer's "girlfriend" and linking to her personal Instagram account. The act prompted Engoron to issue a partial gag order barring Trump — and later his legal team — from commenting on court staff.

A New York appeals court earlier this month, however, paused the gag order, allowing Trump to speak freely about court staff while a longer appeals process takes place.

Greenfield's personal contact information has since been compromised, a court safety official, Charles Hollon, told The Guardian.

“I have been informed by Ms. Greenfield that she has been receiving approximately 20-30 calls per day to her personal cellphone and approximately 30-50 messages per day online,” Hollon said. “Ms Greenfield also informed me that since the interim stay was issued lifting the gag orders on November 16, 2023, approximately half of the harassing and disparaging messages have been antisemitic.”

Former Obama Associate White House Counsel Ian Bassin argued that Trump had to be aware that his attacks could incite that kind of barrage and accused the former president of using his influence as part of a strategy.

"This is on purpose," Bassin wrote on X, formerly Twitter. "This is Trump’s intent. He wants these people to feel threatened and intimidated. He’s taking a page right from the mafia, plain and simple. And the courts have a duty to stop it."

"There is a dynamic here, where judges in an individual case have to be aware of Trump’s incendiary and dangerous rhetoric nationwide and the genuine risk that someone somewhere will get grievously hurt," former U.S. Attorney Harry Litman added.

CNN legal analyst Norm Eisen asserted that the threats and attacks against Engoron and Greenfield justify the reinstatement of Trump's gag order.

"The threats that Trump is triggering against the New York judge & his law clerk are violent & anti-Semitic," CNN legal analyst Norm Eisen tweeted. "They shot up after the gag order was temporarily lifted on appeal 1st amend. protections are not absolute and the gag order should and eventually will be reinstated."

Former U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance argued that Trump's attacks and the subsequent onslaught of threats on his targets will ultimately hurt him.

"The danger is to the clerk, but it's really to the entire staff of this courthouse because the former president well-knows of the impact his words have," Vance said during a Sunday MSNBC appearance. She noted that if Trump was posting on social media innocently and without that awareness of his influence, then he would likely have stopped upon seeing the 275, single-spaced pages of threats that Greenfield has received.

"The fact that he hasn't stopped and he has accelerated while the gag order is temporarily lifted for purposes of this appeal really tells you what his intentions are here," Vance continued, calling it "disruptive" for the New York courts and "dangerous" for all court employees. "It's completely unacceptable. It makes clear that a gag order is going to be necessary."

The fraud lawsuit, which was brought by New York Attorney General Letitia James, accuses Trump, his sons, other Trump Organization executives and the company of heavily exaggerating the value of the company's properties to receive more favorable loan terms and deals. She seeks $250 million in penalties and a ban on the Trumps' ability to do business in the state.

Engoron issued a pre-trial summary judgment in September, ruling Trump liable for defrauding banks and insurers and ordering the dissolution of Trump's businesses. The latter decision is currently paused pending appeal.

Trump has denied any wrongdoing in the case and has previously defended his property valuations.

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Former U.S. Attorney Barb McQuade warned that the latest filing in the New York gag order case could influence the federal appeals court reviewing a gag order imposed by D.C. Judge Tanya Chutkan, who is overseeing Trump's election subversion case.

In that case, lawyers for the former president have been "misleading" the court as they spar with the Department of Justice, McQuade said, asserting that arguments they made had nothing to do with the subject at hand. The appeals court hearing oral arguments Monday will likely take the threats against Engoron and Greenfield into perspective "because it shows that it's not imaginative or speculative harm," McQuade told MSNBC. "These are real threats coming in every day and disrupting the business of the court, putting its employees in harm's way.

"One of the things that the Trump lawyers have done, that is very misleading here, is to look at cases outside of the context of court, of opinion criminal cases," McQuade continued. "You know, prior restraints are frowned upon, of course. Anything that limits core political speech is antithetical to the 1st Amendment. But that's not the world that we're in. We are in the world of a trial."

She elaborated: "Inside a trial, to protect the parties, to protect court staff and to protect the fair administration of justice, those rules are different. And so I hope that the court sees the light and understands the very real threat on the one hand versus the restriction on the other."