On Wednesday, the New York state judge overseeing the financial fraud trial of former President Donald Trump fined him $10,000 for violating a judicial gag order that had been placed on him earlier this month to bar him from publicly disparaging court staff.
Earlier in the day, Trump had described Judge Arthur Engoron as a “very partisan judge” in comments to news media during a court recess. Trump also said that Engoron had “a person who is very partisan sitting alongside him, perhaps even more partisan than he is.”
Engoron presumed that Trump had been referring to a clerk of his courtroom, given that the former president had posted images of the clerk on social media alongside similar commentary at the start of October, which had led to the introduction of the gag order.
The judge ordered Trump to the stand to answer questions about his comments. When pressed to explain himself, Trump claimed that he wasn’t talking about the judge’s clerk but rather was referring to the key witness of the day, his former “fixer” lawyer Michael Cohen.
Trump went on to say that he believed the clerk was “maybe unfair” and “very biased against” him, but maintained that his comments to reporters weren’t about her.
Engoron was not swayed by Trump’s claims. “It’s easy for the public or anyone to know who that is,” the judge said, referring to the clerk. He then fined Trump $10,000 for his comments, doubling the $5,000 fine he imposed against the former president last week for violating the same gag order.
Engoron explained that he sought to enforce the order not only because Trump’s testimony was false and a “blatant” violation of the gag order, but also for safety reasons.
“I am very protective of my staff. I don’t want anybody killed” because of Trump’s or anyone else’s words, he explained.
The $10,000 fine is largely symbolic given Trump’s immense level of wealth. But Engoron suggested last week that Trump could face stiffer fines — and even potential jail time — if he continues to disregard the gag order that was issued earlier this month.
In his order on Wednesday, Engoron again hinted that more severe repercussions were on the table should Trump continue to violate the order.
“Why should there not be severe sanctions for this blatant, dangerous disobeyal of a clear court order?” the judge said.
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