NEW YORK — A mid-level appeals court on Thursday reinstated a gag order prohibiting Donald Trump and his attorneys from commenting on the staff of the judge presiding over his civil fraud trial.
In a brief ruling, the First Department appellate division reinstated an order barring him and his attorneys from public remarks about the civil servants who staff state Supreme Court Judge Arthur Engoron’s courtroom.
The court temporarily suspended the gag order following a request for emergency relief from Trump’s lawyers, who argued it violated his right to free speech and his lawyers’ ability to defend him. Trump’s appeal of the order is still pending.
“Tragic day for the rule of law,” Trump attorney Chris Kise said in a text to the Daily News. “In a country where the First Amendment is sacrosanct, President Trump may not even comment on why he thinks he cannot get a fair trial. Hard to imagine a more unfair process and hard to believe this is happening in America.”
Trump remains free to criticize the judge, who he’s posted shirtless photos of online along with highly demeaning comments about him, his staff, his relatives, and state Attorney General Tish James, a frequent target of his ire.
Engoron imposed the gag order on the second day of trial after the Republican presidential front-runner fired off an incendiary and untrue Truth Social post about his principal law clerk, Allison Greenfield. He later expanded it to include Trump’s lawyers when they continued to cast aspersions about his working relationship with his clerk. He’s fined him $15,000 for violating it twice.
Since the appeals court temporarily lifted the gag order, threats against Engoron and his staff skyrocketed, a senior court security officer told the appeals court in a filing last week. Greenfield has been inundated with up to 30 calls a day on her cell phone and 50 messages across her social media accounts, court official Charles Hollon wrote, who said she’s been targeted with largely antisemitic diatribes.
Hollon included transcripts of disgraceful voicemails Engoron’s chambers has received, including flagrantly racist, misogynistic and antisemitic comments targeting the judge, Greenfield, and AG James.
“ … I love Jewish (people). But there’s dirty Jews like you,” one caller said. “Go die. I hope you all die. We’re not going to kill you. I’m not going to kill you. I don’t want anybody else to kill you because I don’t want them to get in trouble. I just hope you die of (your) stupidity. We’ll probably get you killed …”
Another caller said, “I mean, honestly, you should be assassinated. You should be killed. You should be not assassin executed. You should be executed.”
Imploring the appeals court to reinstate the orders, Hollon wrote that it was “unquestionable” that Trump and his lawyers’ conduct had led to “the deluge of the court’s chambers phone and the law clerk’s personal cell phone, personal emails and social media accounts with hundreds of threatening, harassing, disparaging and antisemitic messages.”
“The threats against Justice Engoron and Ms. Greenfield are considered to be serious and credible and not hypothetical or speculative,” Hollon wrote, later citing the ongoing security risks to the judge and his staff.
“The implementation of the limited gag orders resulted in a decrease in the number of threats, harassment, and disparaging messages that the judge and his staff received. However, when Mr. Trump violated the gag orders, the number of threatening, harassing and disparaging messages increased.”
Trump, his sons, and top executives have already been found liable for fraud in the AG’s $250 million case headed into its third month on trial. In a pretrial order, Engoron found they engaged in persistent fraud by misvaluing his assets to profit illegally from deals with banks and lenders. Engoron is considering the AG’s remaining six claims at the trial and how much Trump and his executives made through their lies.
©2023 New York Daily News. Visit at nydailynews.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.