Donald Trump was fined $5,000 for failing to fully remove a social media post that criticized a law clerk in the trial of a civil fraud lawsuit brought by the New York attorney general.
(Bloomberg) — Donald Trump was fined $5,000 for failing to fully remove a social media post that criticized a law clerk in the trial of a civil fraud lawsuit brought by the New York attorney general.
Judge Arthur Engoron on Friday said the former president could have been held in contempt of court or even imprisoned for violating a partial gag order put in place Oct. 3, when Trump was forced to delete the post from his Truth Social platform. The front-runner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination failed to delete a copy of the post from his website in “blatant violation” of the order, Engoron said.
The fine is the latest escalation in the war of words between Trump and the New York jurist. The former president has blasted Engoron as a “Trump hater” and a “rogue judge,” while Engoron has previously held him in contempt of court and issued penalties totaling $110,000.
“Make no mistake: future violations, whether intentional or unintentional, will subject the violator to far more severe sanctions, which may include, but are not limited to, steeper financial penalties, holding Donald Trump in contempt of court, and possibly imprisoning him pursuant to New York Judiciary Law,” Engoron said Friday.
While New York law allows judges to impose fines or imprisonment as punishment for contempt of court, Engoron said he would not find the former president in contempt because Trump’s lawyers assured him the posting was “inadvertent” and a “first-time violation.”
Engoron’s original order barred Trump and all parties from making personal attacks on members of his judicial staff. Engoron said Trump posted an “untrue, disparaging and personally identifying post” about his law clerk, falsely claiming that the judge’s clerk was the “girlfriend” of Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer.
The trial, now in its third week, is one of six Trump is facing as he seeks to return to the White House, and his commentary about judges and prosecutors has previously gotten him in hot water. The former president earlier this week appealed a partial gag order that prohibits him from publicly criticizing witnesses, prosecutors, and court staff involved in the federal election obstruction case against him in Washington.
Trump is facing allegations in the New York case that he inflated the value of his assets by billions of dollars a year to get better terms on loans and insurance. The suit brought by New York Attorney General Letitia James has put Trump’s control of some of his biggest assets at stake.
Trump’s animosity toward Engoron peaked last month when the judge ruled he was liable for fraud, putting Trump’s control of his business empire at risk even before the trial started.
At a hearing Friday morning, Engoron appeared visibly angry and said he was considering imposing “serious sanctions” upon Trump for what he called “a blatant violation” of his directive. The former president was not in court on Friday.
Trump’s lawyer Chris Kise insisted the posting remained on the site mistakenly. “President Trump has not made any statements of any kind about court staff, has abided by the order completely,” Kise said. He said of the more than 114 million visitors to the campaign web page, there had only been 3,701 unique visits to the post.
Engoron held Trump in contempt of court last year for failing to comply with a subpoena from the attorney general and fined the former president $10,000 a day until he was in compliance. Trump racked up $110,000 in fines.
(Adds Trump lawyer’s comments at Friday hearing in eighth paragraph.)
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