A New York judge ruled Friday that a limited gag order on Donald Trump should also apply to his lawyers, citing their statements about his staff and the deluge of threats and harassment directed at his office since the former president’s fraud trial began.
“The threat of, and actual, violence resulting from heated political rhetoric is well documented,” Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Arthur Engoron wrote in a fiery court order Friday afternoon.
“My rooms have been flooded with hundreds of harassing and threatening phone calls, voicemails, emails, letters, and packages” since the trial began, he wrote.
Friday’s order prohibits attorneys in the case from making any public statements, in or out of court, about confidential communications between the judge and his staff. But they may still refer to the clerk in the context of court schedules and procedures.
“The First Amendment right of the defendants and their attorneys to comment to my staff far and away outweighs the need to protect them from threats and physical harm,” the judge wrote.
Violation of the gag order “will result in serious punishment,” he added.
Engoron imposed similar restrictions on Trump on October 3, after the former president shared a social media post attacking the judge’s chief law clerk. Since then, Trump has twice violated the gag order, and Engoron has levied fines of first $5,000, and then $10,000.
Engoron’s latest order singled out two of Trump’s lawyers, Christopher Kise and Alina Habba, for making what he said were “repeated, inappropriate statements” about the same clerk Trump attacked.
Kise and Habba said their main complaint was the judge’s habit of using handwritten notes to communicate with his law clerk, which Kise said creates “an appearance of impropriety.”
The clerk was sitting to Engoron’s right, opposite the witness box. Passing written notes allows them to communicate without interrupting the proceedings.
However, Kise tried to paint the notes as something sinister and conspiratorial, as if the law clerk was a puppet master.
“There are other people who are sending you information on a very frequent basis,” he told Engoron in court Thursday.
These insinuations enraged the judge, who warned Kise that he was considering a supplement to the gag order.
“Sometimes I think there might be a bit of misogyny in the fact that you keep referring to my female chief law clerk,” he told Kise.
“I’m not a misogynist. I’m very happily married and I have a 17-year-old daughter,” said Kise.
Trump’s order only prohibits him from attacking Engoron’s court staff. The former president is free to continue talking about the judge himself, as is New York Attorney General Letitia James, who brought the massive civil suit.
James alleged a decades-long scheme by Trump, his two adult children, the Trump Organization and others to inflate his net worth in order to obtain various financial perks, including tax benefits and better loan terms.
James is seeking about $250 million in damages, and wants to prevent the Trumps from operating another business in New York.
Engoron has already found the defendants liable for fraudulently misrepresenting the values of real estate properties and other assets in financial records. The trial will resolve six other claims alleged by James.
Trump is expected to be called to the witness stand on Monday, following testimony this week by his sons, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump.
In the days leading up to his testimony, Trump Sr. often attacked