Saturday, March 2

Judge fines Trump $5,000 after threatening prison for gag order violation

New York — The judge in former President Donald Trump’s civil fraud trial lashed out at him this morning for failing to remove from his campaign website a derogatory post about the judge’s clerk. 

The post, which was spotted Thursday by the pro-democracy news website MeidasTouch, was a duplicate of one posted to Trump’s social media site on Oct. 3, and deleted soon after New York Judge Arthur Engoron issued a limited gag order, barring Trump from posting or speaking publicly about the judge’s staff.

The campaign replication of the deleted post has since also been removed, but Engoron appeared quite angry Friday. 

He asked Trump’s lawyers why he shouldn’t impose “serious” sanctions, “including financial sanctions” “or possibly imprisoning him.”

Judge Arthur Engoron Presides Over Trump Fraud Lawsuit
Judge Arthur Engoron sits on the bench inside New York Supreme Court, Oct. 10, 2023.

Seth Wenig / AP

Trump attorney Christopher Kise apologized and said it was an errant oversight, arguing that it was “truly inadvertent,” due to the presidential campaign’s “machinery” replicating the post on its website. Kise said there haven’t been any subsequent postings about the clerk or other court staff. 

Kise said there haven’t been any subsequent postings about the clerk or other court staff. 

Engoron didn’t immediately seem swayed. Donald Trump is still responsible for the large machine,” Engoron told him.

Later, after a mid-morning break, Kise addressed the removed post again. He said the post was only highlighted by the campaign to an email list of roughly 25,810 people who work in media, and that ultimately a fraction of that number visited the post on the campaign website.

“Between Oct. 3 and Oct. 19, there were a little over 114 million visitors to the campaign website. Only 3,701 viewed – they’re called unique views – viewed the post. That would include anyone that received the email,” Kise said.

“Well, you and I are both becoming more tech savvy,” Engoron replied.

Engoron imposed a $5,000 fine Friday afternoon.

“In the current overheated climate, incendiary untruths can, and in some cases already have, led to physical harm, and worse,” Engoron wrote in his order.

A spokesperson for the campaign did not reply to a request for comment.

Tensions have been high this week in the case, in which Trump, his adult sons and The Trump Organization are accused of overvaluing Trump’s properties and net worth in an alleged scheme to get favorable loans and insurance that benefited them at least $250 million. 

The judge issued a ruling last month finding that Trump and his company “repeatedly” violated state fraud law. Trump and the other defendants have all denied wrongdoing in the case. Their attorneys have argued that what James’ office calls fraud were subjective valuations of property and wealth. 

On Thursday, an attorney for New York Attorney General Letitia James could be heard during a sidebar calling Kise “rude.”

The day before, two of James’ attorneys yelled at Kise when he said they didn’t care about a witness’s right against self incrimination.

That altercation played out in front of Trump, who is not required to attend the trial, but did so on Tuesday and Wednesday. Moments before James’ attorneys yelled at Kise, they had asked Engoron to admonish Trump, saying he was intimidating the witness, loudly expressing frustration at testimony, shaking his head back and forth and throwing his hands in the air.

Engoron obliged, looking toward Trump’s team and saying, “I ‘ll ask everyone to be quiet while the witness is testifying.”

A previous version of this story included an inaccurate description of the MeidasTouch website; it is not a PAC.

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