In a twist of events, New York Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron has announced that he will reconsider the $10,000 fine imposed on former U.S. President Donald Trump for violating a gag order during his ongoing civil fraud trial. The decision comes after Trump’s legal team argued that the fine infringes on his right to free speech.
This marks the second time the former president has been fined for breaching the gag order, which restricts him from publicly discussing court staff involved in his case. The most recent incident occurred when Trump appeared to make reference to his top clerk while speaking to the media outside the courtroom.
Donald Trump’s attorney, Christopher Kise, contended that Justice Engoron had misinterpreted Trump’s comments. Kise maintained that the former president was within his rights to express himself. Engoron, in response to the arguments put forth by Trump’s legal team, stated, “I’ll reconsider the sanctions decision because I do want to see the clip and the transcript.” However, he added, “Unless I say otherwise, the decision stands.”
Trump, who is the frontrunner for the Republican nomination in the 2024 U.S. presidential election, is facing a civil fraud lawsuit brought by Democratic New York Attorney Letitia James. The lawsuit alleges that Trump inflated his assets by billions of dollars to secure more favorable loan terms and insurance premiums.
The controversy surrounding the gag order escalated when Trump made remarks to reporters that suggested the judge’s bias, stating, “This judge is a very partisan judge, with a person who’s very partisan sitting alongside of him.” It is customary in New York state court for clerks to sit next to judges, with the witness box on the other side.
Trump was briefly called to the stand to clarify his statement. During his testimony, he claimed he was referring to Michael Cohen, his former lawyer and fixer, rather than the judge’s top clerk.
The initial gag order was imposed by Justice Engoron on October 3 after Trump shared the name and photo of the judge’s top clerk on social media, insinuating that she held political biases. On October 20, Engoron fined Trump $5,000 for failing to promptly remove a screenshot of the now-deleted post from his campaign website.
The case continues to draw national attention, not only due to the legal proceedings but also because of the political implications for the 2024 U.S. presidential election. As the trial unfolds, it remains to be seen whether the reconsideration of the $10,000 fine will have any impact on the former president’s legal battles or his political aspirations.