During Donald Trump’s New York fraud trial, the presiding judge sternly warned the former president of potential contempt rulings, substantial financial penalties, and the specter of “possible imprisonment” in a courtroom session on Friday morning. This admonishment stemmed from the judge’s displeasure with an “incendiary” campaign post that he believed violated the court’s gag order.
Trump’s lead defense attorney contended that the post, which targeted New York Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron’s chief law clerk, had unintentionally remained on the campaign website, constituting a “truly inadvertent” mistake unrelated to the former president.
However, Judge Engoron, while refraining from immediate punitive action, expressed dissatisfaction with the explanation provided by Trump’s legal representative.
Engoron asserted, “Donald Trump is still responsible for the large machine,” referring to his campaign, and added, “even if it is a large machine.”
In raising the specter of severe consequences, Judge Engoron, flanked by his law clerk, offered an overview of the gag order’s history and context, alongside the contentious post that had lingered on the Trump campaign’s website until its removal on Thursday night. On October 3, Judge Engoron stated, “defendant Donald Trump posted an untrue, disparaging, and personally offensive post about my principal law clerk.”
The post in question falsely alleged that attorney Allison Greenfield, the law clerk, was romantically involved with New York Senator Chuck Schumer, a frequent target of Trump and right-wing criticism.
This post featured a photograph taken at a campaign event where Greenfield was pictured alongside Schumer and accused her of orchestrating the case against Trump.
Judge Engoron promptly had the post removed from Truth Social at Trump’s request, with Trump committing to refrain from similar actions in the future. As a consequence, Engoron prohibited Trump from making any posts, sending emails, or issuing statements that could be construed as personal attacks on his staff members.
Noting that these posts can be particularly perilous “in the current incendiary atmosphere,” Engoron questioned Trump’s legal team about why this blatant breach of the gag order should not incur severe financial penalties, a finding of contempt, and the potential for imprisonment.
Christopher Kise, the lead defense attorney, defended Trump by characterizing the lingering campaign site post as a “truly inadvertent” mistake. Kise emphasized that the Truth Social post had been promptly removed, and Trump had adhered to the court’s order in its entirety. The defense team only became aware last night that the post had remained hidden on the campaign website’s back pages.
Lawyers from the attorney general’s office, currently prosecuting the fraud case against Trump and his company in its third week, refrained from offering their stance on potential sanctions. The judge did not specify when a ruling would be issued.
Shortly before noon, Kise, who had been requested to provide audience metrics for the contentious post, provided some statistics. Between October 3, when the gag order was instituted, and October 19, when the post was finally removed, the Trump campaign website garnered 114 million visitors, but only 3,701 individuals clicked on the post itself.