The judge overseeing Donald Trump’s civil fraud trial has expanded a gag order in the trial to extend to Trump’s attorneys after continued lengthy discussions about the judge’s communications with his law clerk during court this week.
In a written order Friday, Judge Arthur Engoron prohibited Trump’s attorneys from making any further comments about confidential communications between the judge and his staff inside or outside of the courtroom.
“Since the commencement of this bench trial, my chambers have been inundated with hundreds of harassing and threatening phone calls, voicemails, emails, letters and packages. The First Amendment right of defendants and their attorneys to comment on my staff is far and away outweighed by the need to protect them from threats and physical harm,” the judge wrote.
The judge said violating the order would result in “serious sanctions.”
During the first week of the trial, Engoron enforced a gag order barring parties from speaking about his staff in response to a social media post from Trump attacking Engoron’s clerk and showing a picture of her with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat.
Engoron has already fined Trump twice for breaking the order. The first was a $5,000 fine because the post hadn’t been taken down from his website, something Trump’s lawyers said was inadvertent. The second fine – $10,000 – came after Trump appeared to reference the clerk when speaking to reporters outside of the courtroom.
Trump’s legal team has consistently butted heads with Engoron regarding his clerk during the trial, accusing her of “rolling her eyes” during testimony and saying she is unfairly influencing the judge.
Thursday, Trump attorney Chris Kise said it appeared there was sometimes “co-judging” taking place, noting that someone was handing him information on a frequent basis. “Yesterday we counted 30, 40 times,” he said.
Engoron said he has a right to seek counsel from his clerk and Trump’s legal team has no right to know what they are.
“She’s a civil servant, she’s doing what I ask her to do.” Those notes are “confidential communications from my law clerk,” Engoron said Thursday, pounding on the bench.
Engoron’s gag order is one of two that Trump faces. Federal District Judge Tanya Chutkan blocked Trump from speaking about witnesses in his election subversion case in Washington, DC. Friday, a federal appeals court paused that order pending a hearing later this month.
This story has been updated with additional developments.
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