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Trump gag order in fraud case reinstated by New York appeals court

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Former U.S. President Donald Trump attends trial in a civil fraud case that state Attorney General Letitia James brought against him, his adult sons, the Trump Organization and others, in New York City, Oct. 3, 2023.

Eduardo Munoz | Reuters

A New York appeals court Thursday reinstated a gag order on Donald Trump in the former president’s $250 million civil business fraud trial.

The orders bar Trump from making public statements about the staff of Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Arthur Engoron, who is presiding over the ongoing trial.

Engoron had imposed the gag order on Trump after Trump repeatedly targeted the judge’s principal law clerk, Allison Greenfield. Engoron later imposed a similar gag order on Trump’s attorneys, barring them from making any public statements about confidential communications between the judge and his staff. The gag orders on Trump’s attorneys were also reinstated Thursday.

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Engoron has said his chambers have been “inundated” with threats and harassment against him and his staff during the trial. An official who monitors threats for the New York Court System’s Department of Public Safety told the appeals court in a sworn statement that Trump’s comments about Greenfield have prompted “hundreds” of threatening messages, many of which were antisemitic.

In its ruling Thursday, a four-judge appellate panel lifted a temporary suspension of the gag orders on Trump and his attorneys that was put in place while Trump appealed the speech restrictions.

The one-line ruling came three days after Trump’s attorneys urged the appeals court not to reimpose the gag orders, arguing that they unconstitutionally blocked Trump from accusing Engoron and Greenfield of political bias.

Engoron has found Trump in violation of his gag order twice, imposing a total of $15,000 in fines on the former president since the fraud trial began in early October.

The narrow order does not block Trump from attacking Engoron or New York Attorney General Letitia James, who brought the case accusing him and his co-defendants of falsely inflating Trump’s assets for financial gain.

Trump has repeatedly attacked both of them, casting the judge as a Trump “hater” and decrying the case as a “witch hunt.”

On Wednesday, Trump sent at least six separate Truth Social posts targeting Engoron’s wife, accusing her of criticizing Trump and commenting on the trial on X, formerly Twitter. Engoron’s wife told Newsweek earlier this month that she does not have an account on X and has not posted any anti-Trump messages.

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Trump sent at least three additional posts Thursday claiming that Engoron’s wife sent anti-Trump social media messages.

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Engoron has already found Trump, his two adult sons, the Trump Organization and its top executives liable for fraudulently misstating the values of real estate properties and other assets. The trial will determine penalties and resolve other claims of wrongdoing in James’ suit.

In addition to seeking around $250 million in damages, James wants to permanently bar Trump Sr., Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump from running a New York business.

Engoron on Thursday morning extended the scheduled end of the trial from mid-December. He set closing arguments for Jan. 11 after Trump’s lawyers asked for more time to prepare.

The defense is expected to call Trump back to the stand as its final witness on Dec. 11. Engoron plans to issue a verdict in the case a few weeks after the trial ends.

Source: CNBC

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