Donald Trump has been hit with a $US5000 ($8000) fine by a New York judge for violating a gag order barring the former US president from disparaging court staff amid a civil fraud trial in which he is accusing him of unlawfully inflating his net worth to dupe lenders.
Justice Arthur Engoron earlier said during a hearing in Manhattan on Friday that a social media post by Trump attacking the judge’s clerk – which was deleted from the former president’s Truth Social platform – had remained visible on his campaign website two weeks after Engoron had ordered it taken down, according to media outlets.
Trump is the frontrunner for the Republican nomination to challenge Democratic President Joe Biden in the 2024 US election, holding a commanding lead over his rivals despite mounting legal troubles and court-ordered restrictions on his public statements.
Engoron, presiding over the trial on charges brought by New York state Attorney General Letitia James, imposed a limited gag order on October 3 after Trump in a social media post shared a photo of the judge’s top clerk posing with US Senate Majority leader Chuck Schumer, a critic of the former president, and falsely called her the senator’s “girlfriend.”
Engoron said in imposing the gag order that comments directed at his staff were “unacceptable, inappropriate and will not be tolerated under any circumstances.”
Trump at times has appeared in person at the ongoing trial, attacking James and Engoron in inflammatory remarks to reporters outside of the courtroom.
Trump did not attend Friday’s hearing at which, according to US media accounts, his lawyers said the post remaining visible was inadvertent and offered an apology to the judge.
The lawsuit by James accused Trump of inflating the values of his properties by billions of dollars in statements to banks, reaping hundreds of millions of dollars in ill-gotten savings on loan interest. Trump is also accused of manipulating asset values to dupe insurers.
Trump, who has sought to portray the case as intended to hurt him politically, has denied wrongdoing and defended his asset valuations. He has said banks conducted their own due diligence and profited on the loans.
Trump faces criminal charges in four other cases – federal and Georgia state charges involving his efforts to undo his loss in the 2020 election, a federal case over his handling of classified documents after leaving office and New York state charges involving hush money paid to a porn star. Trump has denied wrongdoing and pleaded not guilty in those cases.
Trump also faces a January civil damages trial for defaming a writer who accused him of rape, which he denies.
On October 17, a Washington federal judge overseeing a case accusing Trump of illegally attempting to overturn his defeat in the 2020 presidential election barred Trump from making public statements that “target” US prosecutors, court staff and potential witnesses involved in the case.
Trump is appealing that order.