The former president wasted no time, saying the clerk is biased and “totally out of control.”
Former President Donald Trump swiftly reacted to an appeals court lifting a gag order in his New York fraud case by saying the judge’s chief clerk is biased and “totally out of control.”
President Trump, the frontrunner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, posted on his Truth Social platform several hours after the gag order was paused to criticize Judge Arthur Engoron and his clerk.
“His Ridiculous and Unconstitutional Gag Order, not allowing me to defend myself against him and his politically biased and out of control, Trump Hating Clerk, who is sinking him and his Court to new levels of LOW, is a disgrace,” President Trump wrote Thursday.
Judge Engoron had imposed the order in October after the former president shared a photo of his top clerk on social media. He has fined President Trump a total of $15,000 for twice violating it and warned of more serious consequences for future breaches, including imprisonment.
The judge has already ruled that President Trump and his company, the Trump Organization, engaged in fraud, and the trial largely concerns damages. Attorney General Letitia James is seeking at least $250 million in fines and a New York commercial real estate ban against President Trump and his sons Donald Jr. and Eric Trump.
The New York gag orders will be evaluated by a full panel of appeals court judges, who might reimpose them. But in the interim, the former president can now make comments about the judge’s staff.
Judge Engoron, a Democrat, had argued that his own gag order against President Trump was needed because of alleged attacks and threats against his staffers. He wrote in an order in November that he and his staff have received “threatening phone calls, voicemails, emails, letters and packages.”
“Personal attacks on members of my court staff are unacceptable, inappropriate and I won’t tolerate it,” the judge also said, coming after President Trump criticized his clerk on social media several weeks ago.
“Defendants’ attorneys have made long speeches alleging that it is improper for a judge to consult with a law clerk during ongoing proceedings, and that the passing of notes from a judge to a law clerk, or vice-versa, constitutes an improper ‘appearance of impropriety’ in this case,” the judge also wrote. “These arguments have no basis.”
He sided with the Trump legal team, who had asked for emergency relief earlier this week, arguing that the gag order violates the former president’s First Amendment right to free speech. “While the desire to protect his staff may seem understandable, the gag orders, as entered, are not narrowly tailored to do so,” the lawyers wrote.
Chris Kise, a Trump attorney, hailed the move in a statement issued on Thursday afternoon. “Fortunately, the constitution and the First Amendment protect everyone, including President Trump,” he told news outlets. “The public will again have full access to what is taking place in this unprecedented trial.”
This week, the Trump team also filed a motion for a mistrial in the case, arguing that Judge Engoron and his principal law clerk exhibited bias that “threatens both Defendants’ rights and the integrity of the judiciary as an institution.”
“In this case the evidence of apparent and actual bias is tangible and overwhelming. Such evidence, coupled with an unprecedented departure from standard judicial procedure, has tainted these proceedings and a mistrial is warranted,” his lawyers wrote in their motion.
A spokesperson for Ms. James’s office later responded to the motion by claiming that the former president is trying to “dismiss the truth and the facts … but the numbers and evidence don’t lie.”
The case is part of a range of legal troubles President Trump faces ahead of the election, though none have diminished his commanding lead over Republican rivals, according to recent polls. He is under indictment in a total of four criminal cases, including two related to his post-2020 election activity. He has pleaded not guilty to all the charges.
The Trump Organization fraud trial is expected to run until mid-December. Judge Engoron issued an order that mandated some of President Trump’s business licenses be dissolved in New York state as punishment, although an appeals court has stalled that ruling.
Reuters contributed to this report.