Fraud trial judge hits Trump with gag order for bogus claims about court staff

Judge Engoron warns the former president could face ‘serious sanctions’

Alex Woodward
in New York Supreme Court in Manhattan
Tuesday 03 October 2023 20:42 BST
Donald Trump appears in court for second day of fraud trial

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Louise Thomas

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Across the first two days of a trial inside a Manhattan courtroom, Donald Trump has sat quietly for hours alongside his attorneys while listening to arguments and testimony in a case stemming from a multi-million dollar fraud lawsuit from New York’s attorney general.

But just steps outside the courtroom, moments before and after entering, and in statements through his campaign and on social media, the former president has insulted the judge presiding over his case and spread false claims about the chief clerk seated next to him.

Mr Trump has labelled the judge a “disgrace” and baselessly accused him of corruption. During a break in the trial on 2 October, a post on his Truth Social account falsely accused court clerk Alison Greenfield of being Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s “girlfriend” and posted a link to her Instagram account.

He claimed that Ms Greenfield is “running the case against” him. Ms Greenfield has been seated to the judge’s right throughout the trial, directly in front of Mr Trump and his legal team.

The post was deleted a short time later.

“This trial is a rigged trial,” Mr Trump said during an impromptu press conference in the hallway outside the courtroom during a break on Tuesday. “You saw what was just put out about [Chuck] Schumer and the principal clerk – that is disgraceful.”

Following a lunch recess, the judge – known for his bone-dry sense of humour – returned to the bench to deliver a stone-cold warning against Mr Trump, without having to name him.

Judge Engoron said that “one of the defendants posted from a social media account a disparaging, untrue and personally identifying post about a member of my staff” – a post that that the judge said he ordered to be deleted.

But it “was also emailed out to millions of other recipients,” he added.

“Personal attacks on my members of my court staff are unacceptable, inappropriate and I will not tolerate them under any circumstances,” Judge Engoron said. He added that he warned counsel one day earlier but his warning “was disregarded.”

“Consider this statement a gag order from posting, emailing or speaking publicly about any members of my staff,” he said.

He warned that Mr Trump could face “serious sanctions” if he further violates the judge’s order.

The former president could face other court sanctions for similar statements and rhetoric targeting the other prosecutors and officials overseeing the four criminal cases against him.

US Department of Justice special counsel Jack Smith has requested a partial gag order to restrict his statements surrounding a federal case alleging Mr Trump’s criminal attempts to subvert the 2020 presidential election.

Mr Trump knows that “when he publicly attacks individuals and institutions, he inspires others to perpetrate threats and harassment against his targets,” according to the request from the special counsel.

He continues those attacks “precisely because he knows that in doing so, he is able to roil the public and marshal and prompt his supporters,” the filing states.

New York Superior Court Judge Arthur Engoron
New York Superior Court Judge Arthur Engoron (AP)

In Georgia, the office of Fulton County District Attorney has asked a judge to restrict the release of any information about jurors involved with the sprawling criminal case against Mr Trump and 18 other defendants accused of conspiring to overturn 2020 presidential election results in Georgia.

The former president’s supporters published jurors’ names, social media profiles, addresses and phone numbers as part of an apparent online harassment campaign fuelled by right-wing outrage over a sprawling grand jury indictment against the former president and others allegedly involved in the scheme. Under Georgia law, names of the grand jurors were included in the indictment.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee has prohibited filming or photographing jurors and prospective jurors and recording their conversations or statements, and none of the parties involved in the case may disclose any identifiable information about them, unless permitted by the court.

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