An appeals court has temporarily lifted the gag order barring former President Trump and his attorneys from talking about the trial judge’s staff in his New York civil fraud case.
The order follows an emergency lawsuit filed by Trump’s legal team Wednesday against Judge Arthur Engoron, whose enforcement of the gag orders they claim “casts serious doubt” on his ability to serve as an “impartial finder of fact” overseeing Trump’s case.
“His extraordinary expansion of that order both limits and chills advocacy on Petitioners’ behalf and precludes counsel on pain of contempt from making a record of misconduct and bias in a public courtroom,” Trump’s counsel wrote in the emergency suit.
The former president’s legal team requested an interim stay of Engoron’s gag orders — and the sanctions that resulted from his violation of them, which the New York appellate division granted after oral arguments Thursday.
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The gag orders stemmed from an online attack Trump made on Engoron’s principal law clerk, who has become an unwitting main character in the fraud trial.
Trump’s Truth Social account falsely derided the clerk as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s (D-N.Y.) “girlfriend” and included personally identifying information about her. A Schumer spokesperson called the post “ridiculous, absurd, and false” in a statement to The Hill.
Trump and his counsel have repeatedly toed the line regarding their comments about clerk, claiming that she acts as a “co-judge” in the case and criticizing her for passing notes and whispering with the judge. The judge has fined Trump $15,000 for various violations.
At one point, Engoron unexpectedly called Trump to the witness stand to explain himself for a comment the judge perceived to be about the clerk.
The appeals judge raised concerns over restricting Trump’s free speech in his decision to stay the gag order, meaning Trump can now comment freely about Engoron’s staff while the appeals process plays out.
The Associated Press contributed.