The judge presiding over his fraud case in New York forced Donald Trump to take the witness stand today.
Before levying the latest fine, reported The Associated Press, “Judge Arthur Engoron summoned Trump from the defense table to testify about his comment to reporters hours earlier about “a person who’s very partisan sitting alongside” the judge.
Engoron on Oct. 3 had ordered all participants in the trial not to comment publicly about his staff, a restriction issued after a Trump social media post maligning the judge’s principal law clerk, who sits next to Engoron.
Trump and his lawyers insisted this his comment Wednesday was about witness Michael Cohen, a former Trump lawyer, and not about the clerk.
Engoron said Trump’s claim was ‘not credible,’ noting that the clerk sat far closer to the judge than Cohen did while testifying.
‘The idea that the statement would refer to the witness doesn’t make any sense to me,’ the judge continued before slapping him with fine.
The fine was the second time Trump has slapped on the wrist for breaking the judge’s order.
Later in the day, however, things went from bad to worse for the former president when Michael Cohen, the president’s former lawyer, took the stand, which led to Trump storming out of the courtroom.
“TRUMP IMMEDIATELY GETS UP AND STORMS OUT OF THE COURTROOM WITH SECRET SERVICE AGENTS CHASING AFTER HIM….COMPLETELY UNEXPECTED AND SURPRISING TO HIS OWN ATTORNEYS …COURTROOM GASPED”
— Shawn Reynolds (@ShawnReynolds_) October 25, 2023
NBC News had more of the details of the scene, writing that asked if Trump or Weisselberg directed him to inflate the numbers on his personal statement, Cohen said: “Not that I recall.”
Cliff Robert, an attorney for the Trumps, then asked for a directed verdict, arguing that the key witness testified that the defendant didn’t tell Cohen to inflate the numbers. The judge denied the request.
Trump immediately got up and stormed out of the courtroom with Secret Service agents chasing after him. The move was not expected and appeared to surprise even his attorneys. Gasps could be heard within the courtroom.
Cohen later added that Trump didn’t specifically tell him to inflate the numbers, comparing the former president to a mob boss who tells you what he wants without directly telling you.
CNN reported that following Cohen’s testimony with Trump’s lawyers, “the New York attorney general’s lawyers asked Cohen in follow up questions to clarify his response. Cohen said that Trump never directly asked to inflate the numbers, but that what he wanted was known, because he spoke like ‘a mob boss.’
‘He tells you what he wants without specifically telling you,’ Cohen said. ‘We understood what he wanted.’
At the conclusion of Cohen’s testimony, Robert renewed his request for a verdict to and ‘end this case once and for all.’
‘Absolutely denied,’ Engoron said in response. “
The judge’s initial gag order on October 3 had barred the former president from commenting about court staff after posting a picture of the law clerk on his Truth Social platform. The president’s post stated that Greenfield was “running this case” and that she was “Schumer’s girlfriend.” The post was also sent to the Trump campaign’s email list, as well, noted Politico.
“I am very protective of my staff, as I should be,” Engoron said, appearing annoyed. “I don’t want anybody killed.”
“I stated the last time that any future violations would be severely punished,” the judge exclaimed. “Why should there not be severe sanctions for this blatant, dangerous disobeyal of a court order?”
The gag order in the fraud case comes after a federal judge in Washington also tried to limit Donald Trump’s free speech rights.
Earlier in the week, explained Reuters, U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan, an Obama appointee, “barred Donald Trump from verbally attacking U.S. prosecutors, court staff and potential witnesses involved in a criminal case that accuses him of trying to overturn his 2020 election loss….Pointing to disparaging social media posts, [she] said she would not allow the former U.S. president, who has pleaded not guilty, to ‘launch a pretrial smear campaign’ against people involved in the case.”
The judge’s order was such an egregious violation of the former president’s speech rights that even the ACLU, typically a liberal opponent of Trump, argued that the judge had crossed the line.
On Wednesday morning, wrote The Hill, the ACLU “urged the judge overseeing former President Trump’s federal 2020 election criminal case in D.C. to reevaluate her gag order, arguing it is unconstitutionally overly broad and vague.
‘Former President, and now Defendant, Donald Trump has said many things,’ the ACLU and its D.C. affiliate wrote in court filings. ‘Much that he has said has been patently false and has caused great harm to countless individuals, as well as to the Republic itself. Some of his words and actions have led him to this criminal indictment, which alleges grave wrongdoing in contempt of the peaceful transition of power.’
The civil liberties group also contended the order is overly broad in violation of Trump’s First Amendment rights, saying it could prevent him from speaking about key points in the campaign, including the results of the 2020 presidential election and the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot.
‘This case is already one of the most talked-about trials of all time,’ the ACLU wrote. ‘There may never have been a better-known criminal case in American history, or a better-known defendant. With that in mind, to the extent that the Court’s order seeks to prevent future statements from affecting the impartiality of the potential jury pool, the order seems unlikely to make much of a difference.’”
The group was silent about the fines slapped on the president in New York.
The judge in Washington has since lifted the unconstitutional order.