Former President Donald Trump faced a $10,000 fine on Wednesday and was summoned to the witness stand in his civil fraud trial after being accused of violating a gag order.
This marks the second time within a week that Trump has been penalized for his out-of-court comments. The judge, Arthur Engoron, fined Trump due to his comment to reporters concerning “a person who’s very partisan sitting alongside” the judge.
The judge had previously ordered all participants in the trial not to publicly comment about his staff, following a Trump social media post that criticized the judge’s principal law clerk. Trump and his lawyers contended that his recent comment was not about the clerk but rather about Michael Cohen, a former Trump attorney who had been testifying. Judge Engoron found Trump’s explanation “not credible” and imposed the fine.
Trump’s frustration with the clerk was evident as he expressed his belief that she was biased against him. Trump’s legal team objected to the fine and reiterated his claim of partiality by the clerk. Following the fine, Trump left the courtroom voluntarily.
These episodes have raised questions about Trump’s ability to comply with court directives aimed at controlling his rhetoric while respecting his freedom of speech rights, particularly as he campaigns for a return to the White House.
In a separate federal case in Washington, a gag order was recently imposed to restrict Trump from making public statements targeting prosecutors, court staff, and potential witnesses in his criminal case related to federal election interference. The order followed concerns that Trump’s remarks could incite his supporters to threaten or harass those involved in the case.
In the ongoing New York case, Trump’s former attorney, Michael Cohen, returned to the witness stand as the defense team attempted to undermine his credibility and question his motives. The case is based on a lawsuit filed by New York Attorney General Letitia James, alleging that Trump consistently exaggerated the value of his real estate holdings in financial documents to secure loans, insurance, and deals.
Cohen, who had once served as Trump’s fixer and later became a vocal opponent, has been a key witness in the trial. On Wednesday, Trump’s lawyers focused on Cohen’s criminal convictions and portrayed him as a liar. They pointed out Cohen’s prior praise for Trump and then his subsequent change in stance.
Trump’s attorneys also emphasized Cohen’s admission of lying when he pleaded guilty to tax evasion and loan application falsehoods, questioning whether his actions were actually omissions and paperwork errors. Cohen repeatedly declined to answer questions but ultimately reaffirmed his previous congressional testimony, where he denied recalling being asked to inflate Trump’s net worth.
The trial continues with expectations that Donald Trump will testify regarding the allegations made in the lawsuit.