Trump Gag Order in NY Fraud Case Reinstated by Appeals Court

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(Bloomberg) -- A New York appeals court reinstated a series of gag orders barring Donald Trump and his lawyers from publicly commenting about the law clerk for the judge overseeing the state’s civil fraud trial against the former president.

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Trump’s motion to temporarily block the gag orders while he challenges them was denied Thursday by the appeals court, after a judge had granted a temporary stay Nov. 16.

New York State Judge Arthur Engoron imposed his first gag order at the start of the trial in early October, ruling the former president made “repeated inappropriate remarks” about the clerk that resulted in a flood of threatening and harassing calls and emails to the judge’s chambers.

The judge said he imposed the restriction on Trump after the former president posted on social media an image of the law clerk, made false claims about her and later failed to delete them from a website. Engoron later expanded the gag order to include Trump’s lawyers, after they made comments about her in court.

Enforce ‘Vigorously’

Minutes after the appeals court was issued, Engoron announced it during a morning break in the trial proceedings.

“I intend to enforce the gag orders rigorously and vigorously, and I want to make sure counsel informs their clients of the fact that the stay was vacated,” the judge said, staring sternly at Trump’s legal team.

“We are aware,” Trump lawyer Chris Kise replied. “It’s a tragic day for the rule of law, but we are aware.”

Trump won a temporary stay of the gag orders two weeks ago, after he was fined $15,000 for twice violating them. His lawyers argued to an appellate judge that the restrictions were unconstitutional and violated his free-speech rights as he campaigns for a return to the White House.

But lawyers for New York Attorney General Letitia James, who filed the fraud suit last year, argued the “First Amendment does not prohibit courts from limiting speech that threatens the safety of the court’s staff.”

The state submitted an affidavit from a court security officer disclosing a deluge of threatening phone calls and emails sent to the court clerk, many of them antisemitic. Since Trump began complaining about her on social media in early October, she has been getting “hundreds of threatening and harassing voicemail messages,” lawyers for Engoron said in a Nov. 22 filing to the appeals court.

Lengthy Trial

The civil fraud trial against Trump is in its ninth week and is expected to last into December. James alleges the former president inflated his assets by as much as $3.6 billion a year for more than a decade. Trump denies wrongdoing and has called the case a political witch hunt.

On Monday, Kise told the judge that Trump plans to testify again as the last defense witness on Dec. 11. Lawyers for the state said they expect to call at least two witnesses after the Trump team finishes presenting evidence in the case.

Engoron, who’s presiding over the trial without a jury, told lawyers for both sides to submit closing briefs by Jan. 5 and said he would hear closing arguments from them on Jan. 11. He plans to issue his decision weeks after closing arguments.

(Updates with trial scheduling in the last two paragraphs.)

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