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New York Court Reinstates Gag Order Against Donald Trump in Civil Fraud Trial

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New York Court Reinstates Gag Order Against Donald Trump

A New York appeals court has reinstated a gag order prohibiting former President Donald Trump and his attorneys from making public statements about the courtroom staff in the ongoing $250 million civil fraud trial. The gag order had originally been issued by Judge Arthur Engoron after Trump made numerous comments about a court clerk who he claimed was biased against him. The appeals court ruled to reinstate the gag order against Donald Trump in this high-profile civil fraud trial.

The appeals court had temporarily halted the gag order earlier this month but ruled on Thursday that it should be restored while Trump’s appeal is still pending. Engoron said he intends to “enforce the gag orders rigorously and vigorously” and wants counsel to inform their clients that the stay was vacated.

Trump’s attorney Chris Kise responded that it was a “tragic day for the rule of law” but said they would comply. The lawsuit itself accuses Trump and his co-defendants of repeatedly committing fraud by inflating assets on financial statements to secure better terms on loans and insurance policies. Engoron has already found Trump liable for fraud and is now considering damages.

Background of the Case

The New York Attorney General’s office filed the lawsuit in September 2022 alleging that Trump Organization overstated the value of assets like golf courses and skyscrapers over several years to obtain financial benefits. According to the lawsuit, this enabled them to get better rates on loans, insurance, and tax breaks.

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The alleged fraud took place between 2011-2021 with the help of Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg and other executives who provided misleading financial statements to banks and insurance companies. Weisselberg pled guilty earlier this year to running a 15-year tax fraud scheme but did not implicate Trump during his testimony in the civil trial.

Trump’s lawyers have argued that he was unaware of any wrongdoing within his namesake company and that Weisselberg was acting in his own interests. They claim the valuations of properties like Trump Tower and Mar-a-Lago are subjective so any discrepancies do not constitute intentional deceit. However, prosecutors introduced evidence at trial showing Trump signing off on inflated appraisals.

Why the Gag Order Was Imposed

During breaks in the courtroom proceedings last month, Trump posted statements on Truth Social about Judge Engoron’s clerk. He claimed without evidence that she has a close relationship with Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and implied she harbors bias that should get the case dismissed.

Trump also verbally attacked the clerk in comments to the press outside the courthouse, referring to her as a “disgrace” though not by name. These inflammatory statements soon prompted threats against both Engoron and his clerk. She reportedly received 20-30 harassing calls daily to her personal cell phone along with menacing messages over email and social media.

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To put an end to this harassment and attempt to preserve the integrity of the ongoing trial, Engoron imposed a gag order barring Trump and his lawyers from making public comments about court staff. However, Trump appealed to a higher court to block this order on First Amendment grounds.

Why the Appeals Court Reinstated It

The appeals court initially paused Engoron’s gag order in mid-November but reversed course in its latest ruling. The written decision argued that threats towards the judge and clerk, even if indirectly sparked by Trump’s comments, do not justify infringing upon the former president’s free speech during a civil case.

Nevertheless, the appeals court voted to reinstate the gag order for the remainder of the trial, saying Trump’s appeal can still move forward. Their order explains that his comments about court officers like the clerk could unfairly sway jurors and other trial participants. They ultimately determined Engoron has the authority to tightly control extrajudicial statements that may compromise fairness or create bias.

What Happens Next

With the gag order back in place, Trump and his attorneys are barred from disparaging courtroom staff to the media or public. Judge Engoron has already fined Trump $15,000 for two prior violations of the gag order before it was temporarily halted. Both legal teams are now prohibited from making public statements until the civil trial concludes.

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The final defense witness expected to testify is Trump himself, likely by December 12th. There will be no closing arguments. Instead each side must submit legal briefs by January 5th arguing their case. The final oral arguments are scheduled for January 11th after which Engoron will issue a written ruling before the month’s end.

The judge previously stated damages would not be decided until 2024 if Trump is definitively found guilty of civil fraud. While awaiting the outcome in New York, Trump is also embroiled in a separate federal case over the 2020 election. A gag order issued in that case is similarly on hold pending appeal. Legal experts say Trump faces mounting lawsuits that could dog his run for president in 2024.

Donald Trump continues to be mired in civil and criminal investigations after leaving the Oval Office in January 2021. The ruling by a New York appeals court reinstating a gag order in his ongoing fraud trial underscores the former president’s strained relationship with the judiciary.

Trump’s tendency to verbally attack perceived foes like Judge Engoron’s clerk or the broader Justice Department has repeatedly landed him in hot water. Nevertheless he maintains an ironclad grip over the Republican Party as he vies for a second presidential term. With the next election cycle already underway, Trump’s fiery rhetoric and refusal to admit defeat has raised concerns he may never fully accept rejection at the ballot box.

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Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee is a prolific author who provides commentary and analysis on business, finance, politics, sports, and current events on his website Opportuneist. With over a decade of experience in journalism and blogging, Mezhar aims to deliver well-researched insights and thought-provoking perspectives on important local and global issues in society.

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