We need your help now

Support from readers like you keeps The Journal open.

You are visiting us because we have something you value. Independent, unbiased news that tells the truth. Advertising revenue goes some way to support our mission, but this year it has not been enough.

If you've seen value in our reporting, please contribute what you can, so we can continue to produce accurate and meaningful journalism. For everyone who needs it.

Trumps arrives at the New York courthouse last week Alamy Stock Photo
New York

Judge confirms $10,000 fine for Donald Trump over out-of-court comment

The civil trial concerns allegations of conspiracy, insurance fraud and falsifying business records.

A JUDGE HAS reaffirmed Donald Trump’s $10,000 fine for an out-of-court comment during the ex-president’s business fraud civil trial in New York.

Judge Arthur Engoron fined Trump yesterday after finding that his comments to TV cameras outside the courtroom violated a limited gag order. It bars participants in the trial from commenting publicly on the judge’s staff.

Outside court yesterday, the Republican presidential front-runner complained that Judge Engoron, a Democrat, is “a very partisan judge with a person who’s very partisan sitting alongside of him, perhaps even much more partisan than he is”.

Those words came after one of Trump’s lawyers had complained earlier that morning about the judge’s principal law clerk — the same one Trump had disparaged weeks earlier in a social media post that prompted the gag order.

Summoned  to the witness stand today to explain his comment about the person “alongside” the judge, Trump said he was talking not about the clerk but about his former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen, who was testifying at the time.

Today Judge Engoron called Trump’s contention “not credible”, noting that the clerk is closer to him than is the witness stand.

Trump’s lawyers insisted again today that Trump was talking about Cohen. Attorney Christopher Kise pointed out that right after Trump’s reference to the person “sitting alongside” the judge, the former president said: “We are doing very well, the facts are speaking very loud. He is a totally discredited witness.”

Kise argued that it meant the person “alongside” the judge was also Cohen, and he asked Judge Engeron to rethink the fine.

Kise also argued that if the judge maintained that the remark was indeed about the clerk, the fine would infringe on Trump’s First Amendment rights.

“His business is being attacked, and he’s entitled to comment, fairly, on what he perceives in open court,” Kise said.

Judge Engoron replied: “I don’t think it’s impinging on anybody’s First Amendment rights to protect my staff.” However, he agreed to examine the full remarks and reconsider the fine.

He subsequently decided to stand by it, citing “a brief but clear transition” between the mention of the person “alongside” the judge and the comment about the “discredited witness”.

“That was, to me, a clear transition from one person to another, and I think the person originally referred to was my clerk,” Judge Engoron said.

The case involves a lawsuit that New York attorney general Letitia James filed last year against Trump, his company and top executives. The Democratic attorney general said Trump and his business chronically lied about his wealth on financial statements given to banks, insurers and others.

Before trial, Judge Engoron found that Trump, chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg and other defendants committed years of fraud with the financial statements.

The civil trial concerns allegations of conspiracy, insurance fraud and falsifying business records.

Judge Engoron already ordered that a court-appointed receiver take control of some Trump companies, putting the future oversight of Trump Tower and other marquee properties in question. An appeals court has blocked enforcement of that aspect of Judge Engoron’s ruling, at least for now.

Press Association