An appeals court judge has rejected Donald Trump’s request for a fast-tracked appeal of his gag order in his New York fraud trial, days before he is scheduled to return to the witness stand before his attorneys bring their case to a close.
On Monday, the former president’s legal team asked a state appeals court for a fast-tracked appeal process to challenge last week’s decision that keeps the gag order in place. A judge denied the request, and his lawyers will instead have to make their case before a full panel of judges next week.
The decision effectively guarantees that Mr Trump will remain under a gag order through the final days of his defence team’s presentations in a civil trial that could imperil the family’s vast real estate empire.
Last week, another appeals court allowed the gag order to stand after court filings revealed the wave of abusive messages and credible death threats to the judge overseeing the trial and members of his staff.
Moments later, Mr Trump attacked the judge’s wife on his Truth Social.
On Monday, lawyers for Mr Trump sought permission to appeal to the state’s highest court, claiming that the former president suffers “irreparable injury daily, as they are silenced on matters implicating the appearance of bias and impropriety on the bench during a trial of immense stakes,” despite the abuse his comments have inspired against the court’s staff.
After oral arguments that afternoon, a judge denied the request, ordering that the motion “must be decided by a full panel of this court.”
His chief attorney Christopher Kise accused the case of being “rigged” against his client.
A lawsuit from New York Attorney General Letitia James accuses Mr Trump, his two adult sons and their chief associates in the Trump Organization umbrella of defrauding financial institutions with grossly inflated estimates of his net worth and assets over a decade. The trial stemming from the lawsuit, after the judge found the defendants liable for fraud, is now in its 10th week.
On the trial’s second day, Mr Trump spread false claims about Judge Arthur Engoron’s principal law clerk on his Truth Social, prompting the judge to order Mr Trump to delete the “untrue” and “disparaging” statements before issuing a gag order that blocks all parties in the trial from attacking the court’s staff.
The gag orders do not prohibit Mr Trump, his attorneys or any other parties in the case from disparaging the judge or his family. But Judge Engoron has argued that “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.”
A state appellate court judge temporarily froze the orders, “considering the constitutional and statutory rights at issue”. Last week, after court filings outlined the wave of credible death threats and abusive messages that followed Mr Trump’s attack, the appeals court allowed the gag orders to stand.
“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,” according to a recent court filing from Charles Hollon, an officer-captain with the court’s Department of Public Safety assigned to a judicial threats unit.
“However, when Mr Trump violated the gag orders, the number of threatening, harassing and disparaging messages increased,” he added.
The threats against the judge and his clerk Allison Greenfield are “serious and credible and not hypothetical or speculative,” according to the filing.
Mr Trump is reportedly expected to return to New York State Supreme Court in lower Manhattan on Thursday, and he will return to the witness stand – this time as a witness for the defence – on 11 December. Mr Trump is likely the final defence witness.
His son and co-defendant Eric Trump also is expected to testify for a second time on 6 December.
Attorneys for both parties will issue written briefings to the court before 5 January, with oral arguments to follow, before the judge issues a final judgment sometime next month.