Trump Fined $10,000 for Violating Gag Order

Brendan McDermid/Pool Photo via AP

There was more drama today at Donald Trump’s New York fraud case. As you may recall, Trump attended part of the trial earlier this month and something he (or someone in his name) posted on Truth Social about Judge Engoron’s court clerk got him in trouble.


It led to Judge Engoron putting a gag order in place forbidding any mention of court personnel. “Personal attacks on members on my court staff are unacceptable, inappropriate, and I won’t tolerate it,” he said. That seemed to be the end of it at the time as the Truth Social post was pulled down. But last Friday, Judge Engoron fined Trump $5,000 for violating the order saying he’d just learned that the same statement was never removed from Trump’s campaign website.

In court, Engoron admonished the former president’s attorneys for a “blatant violation” of the gag order and suggested that violations could result in “imprisonment.”

“I learned that the subject post was never removed from the website,” he said. “And, in fact, had been on that website for the past 17 days. I understand that it was removed late last night but only in response to an email.”

Trump attorney Chris Kise apologized to Engoron, saying it was “inadvertent” that the post was able to live on what he called a “back page” of Trump’s campaign website.

Judge Engoron was clearly angry and in his ruling warned things could get worse if the order was violated again: “Make no mistake: future violations, whether intentional or unintentional, will subject the violator to far more severe sanctions, which may include, but are not limited to, steeper finanical penalties, holding Donald Trump in contempt of court, and possibly imprisoning him.”


Jump forward to today and Trump was attending the trial and once again was making some comments to the media during breaks, just as he’d done earlier this month. Some of those comments got back to the judge after the break.

During a break in the trial, Trump told reporters outside the courtroom, “This judge is a very partisan judge with a person who is very partisan sitting alongside him — perhaps even much more partisan than he is.”

When the court session resumed, Engoron said that Trump’s comments had been brought to his attention and said that he had put the gag order in place following Trump’s posting “defamatory, disparaging, completely untrue statements about the law clerk sitting to my right.”

Trump’s attorneys claimed the former president had been referring to Michael Cohen who was a witness at the trial today. That answer initially seemed to satisfy Judge Engoron but after the lunch break he unexpectedly ordered Trump to take the stand and question him about the comments.

“I’m going to hold a hearing right now about that,” the judge said.

Engoron asked Trump who he was referring to when he talked about the “partisan person” next to the judge.

“You and Cohen,” Trump responded, referring to his former attorney and fixer Michael Cohen, who has been testifying Wednesday.

Trump was excused from the stand and then Engoron fined him $10,000 saying “As the trier of fact, I find that the witness is not credible.” Trump’s attorneys later asked that the find be rescinded but the Judge denied their request.


Trump got visibly angry a short time later during questioning of Michael Cohen. Cohen’s testimony was all over the map today. He first claimed his prior congressional testimony about whether Trump had ever asked him to inflate property values was a lie and then reversed himself after lunch.

On Wednesday morning, Trump attorney Alina Habba pressed Cohen about his 2019 congressional testimony when he said, “Not that I recall, no,” in response to a question about whether Trump had directed him or Trump Organization chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg to inflate numbers for Trump’s personal statement.

Cohen said to Habba that he was lying in his testimony.

But after lunch, Cliff Robert, another Trump attorney, pressed Cohen further on his congressional testimony, and the former Trump attorney had a different response, saying that the testimony was not false.

“So, Mr. Trump never asked you to inflate the numbers on his financial statement,” Robert asked.

“Correct,” Cohen said.

On hearing this, Trump’s attorneys immediately asked for the case to be dismissed but Judge Engoron denied it. Trump then got up and walked out.

A red-faced and angry-looking Trump stormed out of the courtroom about 45 minutes later after the judge denied a motion from his lawyers on a separate legal issue. Trump lawyer Cliff Robert had seized on Cohen’s testimony that Trump never explicitly instructed him to inflate his financial statements to ask the judge for a directed verdict dismissing the AG’s claims about the statements, which Engoron refused.

The abrupt departure appeared to catch even his attorneys by surprise and caused gasps throughout the courtroom.

“The witness just admitted that we won the trial and the judge should end this trial immediately. Thank you,” Trump told reporters after he left.


After Trump left, Cohen tried to reconcile his two statements:

Under questioning from AG’s office, Cohen testified later Trump didn’t specifically tell him to inflate the numbers and said he was like a “mob boss” who tells you what he wants without directly telling you.

Cohen’s two days of testimony are over. Here’s Trump’s comment after leaving the courtroom.

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