Trump fined $10,000 for second gag-order violation

2023-10-26 Editor : Li Yan ECNS App Download

Donald Trump was called to the witness stand and fined $10,000 on Wednesday by a judge overseeing his civil fraud trial who found that the former president had violated for a second time a gag order barring him from disparaging court staff.

Judge Arthur Engoron fined Trump for comments that he made after he breached the terms of an Oct 3 gag order. It was the second time that Trump broke the gag order in less than a week.

Engoron had imposed the order after Trump shared on social media a photo of the judge's top clerk posing with U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, and falsely called her Schumer's "girlfriend".

It was the second time that Trump broke the gag order in less than a week.

Trump was summoned from the defense table to testify about his comment to reporters hours earlier when he claimed that "a person who's very partisan (is) sitting alongside" the judge.

Engoron's clerk has sat next to him during the trial, standard practice in a New York state court.

Trump's lawyers said that the comment related to the witness Michael Cohen, Trump's former longtime personal attorney and "fixer", and not about the court's clerk.

Trump, while under oath, blurted out to the judge from the witness stand that his remarks had been directed at "you and Cohen".

He then lashed out at the clerk, saying: "I think she's very biased against us; I think we've made that clear."

The judge rejected the idea that the "partisan" person Trump mentioned was Cohen. "The idea that that statement would refer to the witness, that doesn't make sense to me," Engoron said. "Don't do it again or it will be worse."

Trump's lawyers protested the $10,000 fine and doubled down on accusing the clerk of bias.

Engoron had previously warned anyone taking part in the trial not to comment on any members of staff or they would face penalties.

The judge did that after Trump took to his Truth Social site to write the post about Schumer.

The judge ordered Trump to take down the post and he did. But it remained up on his campaign website, breaching the agreement. He was fined $5,000 for that violation on Oct 20.

Media reports said a red-faced and angry-looking Trump stormed out of the Manhattan courtroom about 45 minutes later after the judge denied a motion from his lawyers on a separate legal issue. The abrupt departure 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.

Cohen testified Wednesday for the second time in the trial. He was peppered with questions by the defense team who called into question the credibility of Trump's former lawyer turned foe.

Trump lawyer Alina Habba asked why Cohen had turned against Trump. She said that it was because in 2018, Cohen had begun to have legal problems regarding his former boss and hinted that he may have felt snubbed after being turned down for a job in the Trump White House.

Cohen stressed that he had never wanted a job in the White House but admitted that he did have animosity toward his former employer.

Habba asked Cohen: "You have made a career out of publicly attacking President Trump, haven't you?"

Cohen replied, "Yes."

Cohen was prosecuted by the federal government for making false statements on a bank loan application, making illegal contributions to Trump's campaign, lying to Congress, and tax evasion.

Cohen admitted Tuesday that he had lied when he pleaded guilty to tax evasion and had lied on his loan application. He said he had done so by making it look like he hadn't filed the correct documents.

Following time in prison, Cohen switched sides from his former boss and is now working as a witness for New York Attorney General Letitia James' civil case against Trump.

James alleges that Trump routinely increased the value of his real estate portfolio on his financial documents to get a better rate on loans and other deals. The trial largely concerns damages.

The attorney general wants at least $250 million in fines, a permanent ban against Trump and sons Eric and Donald Jr from running businesses in New York, and a five-year commercial real estate ban against Trump and the Trump Organization.

Cohen testified during his first day that Trump increased his net worth at a whim. Cohen said he and other employees would inflate the estimated values of his property holdings to get favorable rates on loans and insurance.

Trump has denied any wrongdoing. He accuses James, a Democrat, of being biased against him.

After Wednesday's proceedings, Trump stood outside the court and called the trial "very unfair" and a "pure political witch hunt".

Citing Cohen's admission of lying, Trump said "that should be the end of the case".

James responded outside the court, saying, "We have sufficient evidence to prove that Mr Trump and the Trump organization committed widespread fraud."


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