Donald Trump filed a request in a New York appeals court Monday seeking the termination of a gag order he is under after making disparaging remarks publicly about the judge, law clerk and other court staff involved in his civil fraud trial.
The former president’s latest filing in the case claims that, contrary to Judge Arthur Engoron’s ruling, the remarks Trump made about him and his law clerk on Truth Social and other social media platforms were not threats and did not justify the gag order Engoron placed him under on Oct. 3, banning him from making public comments about the court staff. Engoron extended that order to Trump’s legal team last month. The gag order was extended to include Trump’s lawyers a month later.
Monday’s filing asserts that the “sweeping, unconstitutional Gag Orders” have infringed upon Trump and his lawyers’ “First Amendment rights to demand basic fairness and to highlight publicly the very open, public, and partisan conduct that has infected and permeated the trial.” The gag order shields “Justice Engoron and his openly partisan clerk from the precise scrutiny essential to maintaining public confidence in the judiciary and ensuring a fair trial,” the filing says.
The social media post that landed Trump under the gag order makes similar claims about the court staff ― that they’re politically biased against him. In the original Truth Social post that prompted the order, Trump posted the name, photo and social media accounts of Engoron’s law clerk and claimed with no evidence that she was the girlfriend of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).
Weeks later, the judge fined Trump $5,000 for not removing that post from all of his social platforms.
Days after the first violation, Engoron fined Trump $10,000 for telling reporters in the courthouse that he’s “a very partisan judge with a person who’s very partisan sitting alongside of him, perhaps even much more partisan than he is.”
Since Trump’s post, the law clerk has been receiving 20 to 30 harassing calls a day to her personal cellphone and 30 to 50 harassing messages a day via email and social media, an officer with the court system’s threat assessment unit said last week.
But Trump’s team argued Monday that he and his attorneys are not responsible for “third-party actors” making those threats.
Monday’s filing comes just over a week after an appellate judge temporarily lifted the gag order so that a full panel of judges could review its merit later this week. Since then, Engoron’s lawyers say that the number of threatening messages have increased and that about half of them are antisemitic.
The legal fight over the gag order is taking place during the civil fraud case brought by Letitia James, the attorney general of New York, whose office alleges that Trump, the Trump Organization and members of the Trump family involved with the company vastly inflated the value of their real estate holdings.