(Reuters) – The judge presiding over Donald Trump’s $250 million civil fraud trial in New York raised the possibility on Friday of putting the former president behind bars after Trump failed to comply with a partial gag order requiring him to remove a post condemning the judge’s law clerk on social media, NBC News reported.
Justice Arthur Engoron said in court on Friday morning that Trump had posted on his social media account “an untrue and disparaging post about my clerk” and that he spoke to the former president about the matter, according to NBC News.
“I ordered him to remove the post immediately and he said he did take it down,” Engoron was quoted as saying by the news outlet.
“Despite this order, last night I learned the offending post was never removed from a website. This is a blatant violation of the gag order. I made it clear (that) failure to comply will result in serious sanctions,” the judge added.
A spokesperson for New York state Attorney General Letitia James, who brought the case, declined to comment.
Trump attorney Christopher Kise said, based on his understanding, “this was truly inadvertent.”
Engoron imposed the gag order on Trump on Oct. 3, the trial’s second day, after Trump shared a social media post by the clerk, who was identified by name, posing with Senate Majority leader Chuck Schumer of New York, who is not involved in the case. Trump referred to the clerk as “Schumer’s girlfriend.”
Kise said the post was taken down from Trump’s Truth Social network after the judge’s ruling, “and Trump never made any more comments about court staff, but it appears no one took it down on the campaign website. It is unfortunate and I apologize on behalf of my client.”
James has accused Trump, his two adult sons, the Trump Organization and others of inflating asset values over a decade to secure favorable bank loans and insurance terms, and exaggerating Trump’s own riches by more than $2 billion. The trial could lead to the dismantling of Trump’s business empire as he seeks to regain the presidency in 2024.
She is seeking at least $250 million in fines, a permanent ban against Trump and his sons Donald Jr. and Eric from running businesses in New York, and a five-year commercial real estate ban against Trump and the Trump Organization.
Trump also faces four criminal indictments over his efforts to undo his loss in the 2020 election, his handling of government documents, and business records allegedly concealing hush money paid to a porn star. Trump has denied wrongdoing and pleaded not guilty in all of the cases. He also faces a January civil damages trial for defaming a writer who accused him of rape, which he denies.
The frontrunner for the 2024 Republican nomination for the presidency was also hit with a partial gag order in a federal criminal case accusing him of trying to overturn his 2020 election loss.
U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan in Washington on Monday barred him from verbally attacking U.S. prosecutors, court staff and potential witnesses, pointing to disparaging social media posts. Chutkan said she would not allow him to “launch a pretrial smear campaign.”
Trump plans to appeal that order.
(Reporting by Kanishka Singh and Luc Cohen; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Jonathan Oatis)