A New York appeals court temporarily lifted the gag order placed on former President Donald Trump in his ongoing civil fraud trial, allowing him to once again comment publicly on the case. The ruling, which went into effect on Thursday, cited concerns over Trump’s right to free speech … which the former president used to unleash a wave of scathing criticism against court staff and prosecutors as soon as the restrictions were eased.
The partial gag order against Trump was first imposed by Judge Arthur Engoron in October, limiting Trump’s ability to discuss the case openly (usually by calling out the judge and his staff on social media). As Valuetainment previously reported, the order was first issued after the former president accused one of Engoron’s clerks of being a close friend of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, implying that outside political influences were influencing the proceedings.
Trump has frequently deployed similar arguments against various individuals involved in New York Attorney General Letitia James’ prosecution of the Trump Organization. According to the AG’s office, Trump spent decades misrepresenting the value of his various properties and the size of his net worth. These allegedly fraudulent assessments allowed him to secure more favorable loans from banks while he built his real estate empire.
The current trial, which Engoron is overseeing without a jury, focuses on claims of conspiracy, insurance fraud, and falsifying business records following Engoron’s previous ruling to dissolve several New York-based Trump Organization LLCs.
After Trump’s attacks on his clerk, Engoron imposed the gag order to prevent all parties from disparaging members of the court. Trump was fined $5,000 for violating the order on October 20, then $10,000 on October 25. Engoron eventually threatened him with jail time if further offenses were committed.
Though his attacks subsided after this threat, Trump and his representatives have raged against the order as a First Amendment violation that further proves the political motivations behind the prosecution. In an emergency hearing on Thursday, New York appeals court Judge David Friedman seemed to agree with this assessment.
Judge Freidman’s ruling questioned Judge Engoron’s authority to restrict Trump’s statements outside the courtroom, arguing that gag orders are meant to be used in criminal trials where a jury could be swayed, not in a jury-less civil case. The ruling also applies to Trump’s lawyers.
“Considering the constitutional and statutory rights at issue, an interim stay is granted,” Friedman stated in a court order.
In celebration of the ruling, Trump unleashed a series of pent-up criticisms against Engoron, AG James, and their “Trump-hating” staff on his Truth Social page.
Former President Trump’s defense team has also filed a motion for a mistrial based on evidence of the prosecution’s “tangible and overwhelming” bias against the defendant. Judge Engoron gave James’ office until December 8 to respond to the mistrial request before he rules.