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Trump fined $15,000 for second gag order violation

The judge in Donald Trump's civil fraud trial has fined the former US president $US10,000.

The judge in Donald Trump's civil fraud trial has fined the former US president $US10,000. Photo: AAP

Donald Trump has been fined $US10,000 ($15,773) after the New York judge overseeing his civil fraud trial said the former US president for a second time violated a gag order barring him from disparaging court staff.

Justice Arthur Engoron had imposed the gag order on October 3 after Trump shared on social media a photo of the judge’s top clerk posing with US Senate Majority leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, and falsely called her Schumer’s “girlfriend.”

During a trial break on Wednesday in the civil lawsuit brought by New York Attorney General Letitia James concerning Trump’s business practices, Trump told reporters: “This judge is a very partisan judge, with a person who’s very partisan sitting alongside of him, perhaps even much more partisan than he is.”

Engoron, surmising that Trump was referring to his clerk, called the comments a “blatant” violation of the gag order.

Trump’s comments to reporters came as Michael Cohen, his onetime lawyer and fixer, testified for a second day against his former boss.

Before being fined, Trump briefly took the witness stand and told the judge he was referring to “you and Cohen” during his hallway remarks. The judge rejected the idea, echoed by Trump’s lawyer Christopher Kise, that the “partisan” person who Trump mentioned was Cohen.

“The idea that that statement would refer to the witness, that doesn’t make sense to me,” Engoron said. “Don’t do it again or it will be worse.”

Engoron’s clerk has been sitting next to the judge during the trial, which is standard practice in a New York state court.

Alina Habba, one of Trump’s lawyers, told Engoron she saw the clerk appear to roll her eyes while Cohen was testifying, and that this was “completely inappropriate.”

On October 20, Engoron fined Trump $US5000 after finding he had not taken down a post disparaging the clerk, and warned that future transgressions could bring “far more severe” sanctions including jail. In originally imposing the gag order, Engoron said comments directed against his staff were “unacceptable, inappropriate and will not be tolerated under any circumstances.”

Trump, the frontrunner for the Republican nomination to challenge Democratic President Joe Biden in the 2024 US election, walked out of the courtroom after being fined.

The civil trial concerns allegations that Trump and his family business, the Trump Organisation, unlawfully manipulated asset values and his net worth to dupe lenders and insurers. The case could break up Trump’s business empire.

On Tuesday, Cohen came face-to-face with Trump for the first time in five years, testifying that Trump “arbitrarily” inflated the value of his real estate assets to secure favourable insurance premiums. Cohen also testified on Tuesday that his former boss doctored financial statements so property values would match “whatever number Mr Trump told us.”

Under a tense cross-examination by Habba on Wednesday, Cohen acknowledged having a financial incentive to criticise his former boss, but defended his credibility.

He rejected Habba’s contentions that he had “made a career” out of attacking Trump, and embellished his attacks for personal gain.

“The more outrageous your stories are about President Trump, the more money you make,” Habba said. “Is that accurate, Mr Cohen?”

“No,” Cohen responded emphatically.

Trump has denied wrongdoing in the case and defended the valuations of his properties. Trump separately has pleaded not guilty in four criminal cases this year.

– AAP

Topics: Donald Trump
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