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Trump admonished by New York fraud trial judge over online post

During Donald Trump’s civil fraud trial, a New York judge imposed a limited gag order on him after he insulted a court clerk on social media, forbidding public comments about court staff. Trump faces multiple legal battles, including accusations of inflating asset values for loans and insurance.

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NEW YORK, UNITED STATES — The New York judge overseeing Donald Trump’s civil fraud trial slapped a limited gag order on the former president after he insulted a court clerk in a social media post on Tuesday.

“Personal attacks on members of my court staff are unacceptable,” Judge Arthur Engoron said as Trump sat at the defense table during the second day of his high-profile trial in a Manhattan courtroom.

“Consider this statement a gag order forbidding all parties from posting, emailing or speaking publicly about any of my staff,” Engoron said.

The judge did not refer to Trump by name but he referenced a “disparaging post on social media” made by a defendant in the case, in which Trump and his two eldest sons are accused of inflating the value of the real estate assets of the Trump Organization.

Earlier on Tuesday, Trump had posted on his Truth Social platform a picture of one of the judge’s clerks, and referred to her as the “girlfriend” of Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.

“This case should be dismissed immediately,” Trump said.

The post was later deleted.

The 77-year-old Trump is not required to be in court for the civil fraud trial but he chose to attend for a second day on Tuesday, seizing again on the media exposure to amplify claims he is the victim of a political witch hunt.

He lashed out again at New York Attorney General Letitia James, who brought the case against him, calling her “very corrupt” and “grossly incompetent.”

Trump has also personally attacked the judge on numerous occasions, calling him a “rogue, out of control, Trump-hating judge,” but Engoron, in his verbal gag order, only ordered a halt to attacks on his court staff.

The former president told reporters while leaving court on Tuesday that he would return again on Wednesday and would testify “at the appropriate time.”

Multiple legal battles

Trump, the frontrunner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, is facing legal battles on multiple fronts. The civil fraud case could result in him being barred from doing business in New York.

The state attorney general has accused Trump, his sons Eric and Don Jr and other executives of colossally inflating the value of their assets in order to receive more favorable bank loans and insurance terms.

Trump does not risk going to jail in the civil trial, but James is seeking US$250 million in penalties and the removal of the former president and his sons from the management of the family empire.

Trump has denounced the business fraud charges as a “sham” intended to torpedo his bid to recapture the White House next year.

He has notably mocked the US$18 million valuation of his palatial Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, claiming the property is worth US$1.5 billion.

The civil trial also involves multiple other Trump Organization properties such as Trump Tower and the 40 Wall Street building in New York, as well as golf courses.

Engoron ruled last week that Trump, his sons and other Trump Organization executives lied to tax collectors, lenders and insurers for years in a scheme that exaggerated the value of their properties by US$812 million to US$2.2 billion between 2014 and 2021.

As a result, the judge revoked the business licenses that allowed the Trump Organization to operate some of its New York properties and asked the parties to propose receivers to manage the dissolution of the companies in question.

The twice-impeached former president also faces federal charges for his efforts to overturn the 2020 presidental election and for alleged mishandling of classified documents after he left the White House.

Trump has also been charged with racketeering in Georgia for trying to overturn the 2020 election results in the southern state.

— AFP

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