Trump attacks judge in NY fraud case who fined him $15,000

Real Estate

Former U.S. President Donald Trump attends the Trump Organization civil fraud trial, in New York State Supreme Court in the Manhattan borough of New York City, U.S., October 25, 2023. 
Jeenah Moon | Reuters

Former President Donald Trump on Thursday railed against the judge who will deliver verdicts in his $250 million New York fraud trial, one day after storming out of the courtroom in the middle of witness testimony.

Trump’s fusillade on Truth Social followed a dramatic trial day in which Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Arthur Engoron put Trump on the witness stand, fined him $10,000 for violating his gag order and shot down a request for a sweeping verdict in his favor.

The latest attacks show Trump, a prolific social media user who is running for president again in the 2024 election, turning to the court of public opinion to fight his mounting legal challenges.

But his efforts are constrained by gag orders in two separate cases, including special counsel Jack Smith’s federal case charging Trump with conspiring to subvert his loss to President Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election.

In that case, Trump is prohibited from publicly targeting Smith or potential witnesses, both of whom he has frequently referenced online and on the campaign trail. When those restrictions were temporarily paused last week, Trump fired off attacks against both the special counsel and his former White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, a witness in Smith’s case.

In the New York civil fraud case, meanwhile, Engoron has already ruled twice that Trump violated his narrow gag order, which merely bars him from attacking the judge’s staff.

Former U.S. President Donald Trump is questioned by Judge Arthur F. Engoron before being fined $10,000 for violating a gag order for a second time, during the Trump Organization civil fraud trial in New York State Supreme Court in the Manhattan borough of New York City, U.S., October 25, 2023 in this courtroom sketch. 
Jane Rosenberg | Reuters

Upon finding that Trump’s testimony rang “hollow and untrue,” Engoron has now fined him a total of $15,000. The judge has warned Trump that additional violations will yield much more severe sanctions — including possible imprisonment.

With his targets narrowing, Trump’s attacks appear to be intensifying.

In at least four lengthy social media posts on Thursday, Trump ripped Engoron as a “tyrannical and unhinged” and “fully biased Trump Hater” who “should be ashamed of himself” for his handling of the case.

“HE HAS GONE CRAZY IN HIS HATRED OF ‘TRUMP,'” wrote the former president, who also railed against New York Attorney General Letitia James, his ex-attorney Michael Cohen and a New York Times reporter.

Trump’s 2024 presidential campaign, meanwhile, sought to capitalize on the case by criticizing it in multiple fundraising pleas as a “sham trial” led by a “Democrat judge” who “continues to harass” Trump.

Engoron has already found Trump and other defendants liable for fraudulently inflating the values of real estate properties and key assets on years of financial statements. James, who brought the case, accuses Trump, his two adult sons, the Trump Organization and top executives of falsifying those asset values for a host of financial perks, including tax benefits and more favorable loan terms.

The trial, which is scheduled to last until late December, will resolve six other claims in James’ lawsuit. Engoron himself will deliver verdicts in the trial, which is being conducted without a jury — a fact Trump frequently protests on social media and at the courthouse.

“He is a judge that found me GUILTY before the trial even started,” Trump said of Engoron in his social media screed Thursday.

The posts also called Engoron a “Radical Left Judge” and claimed that he is ignoring a prior appeals court ruling “overturning” his decisions. A New York appeals court panel last month had cleared the trial to begin, denying Trump’s request to delay it.

Engoron had imposed a narrow gag order on Trump on the second day of the trial, after Trump sent a Truth Social post attacking the judge’s law clerk, Allison Greenfield, who sits next to him in court.

About two weeks later, the judge found that Trump violated that gag order by failing to remove the post from his campaign website. Engoron fined Trump $5,000 in that instance and warned him that future violations would yield more severe sanctions, potentially including imprisonment.

During a break in the trial Wednesday, Trump complained to reporters outside the courtroom, “This judge is a very partisan judge with a person who’s very partisan sitting alongside him, perhaps even more partisan than he is.”

Former U.S. President Donald Trump attends the Trump Organization civil fraud trial, in New York State Supreme Court in the Manhattan borough of New York City, October 25, 2023.
Jeenah Moon | Reuters

After hearing about those remarks, Engoron briefly called Trump to the witness stand to explain himself.

Trump said that he was referring to Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal lawyer, who had been testifying throughout the trial day. But Engoron found that answer unconvincing, and he fined Trump $10,000.

“Don’t do it again or it will be worse,” Engoron warned in court.

In his written order Thursday morning, Engoron ruled that Trump intentionally violated the gag order. He noted that Cohen was sitting in the witness box, not alongside him, and said that Trump’s past attacks on Cohen have been less ambiguous.

“Using imprecise language as an excuse to create plausible ambiguity about whether defendant violated this Court’s unequivocal gag order is not a defense; the subject of Donald Trump’s public statement to the press was unmistakably clear,” the judge wrote.

The clash over the gag order was not the only contentious moment in the trial on Wednesday.

Defense lawyer Cliff Robert had asked for a directed verdict after Cohen, Trump’s once-loyal aide who is now a key witness against him, testified that he did not recall if Trump had asked him to inflate the values of his assets. Engoron denied the request, prompting Trump to get up and leave.

Cohen later clarified that while Trump speaks in indirect ways like a “mob boss,” he did communicate the outcome he wanted, according to NBC News.

Engoron rejected another request for a directed verdict later in the day, telling Robert, “there’s enough evidence in this case to fill the courtroom.”

On social media, Trump complained, “The unhinged Judge, a highly political and fully biased Trump Hater, refused to dismiss this HOAX of a case, and has lost all CREDIBILITY.”

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