An appeals court lifted Trump's gag order, clearing the way for him to insult the judge's staff again

Donald trump fraud trial
Donald Trump in the hallway outside of his fraud trial courtroom.David Dee Delgado/Getty Images
  • An appellate judge in New York temporarily lifted Trump's limited gag order in his NY fraud trial.

  • The gag had barred Trump and his lawyers from spoken or written attacks on the judge's law staff.

  • Trump can say what he wants for now, while a full appellate panel weighs if the gag stays off.

An appellate judge on Thursday lifted, for now, a gag order that had barred Donald Trump and his lawyers from attacking the legal staff of the judge in his civil fraud trial in New York.

The decision clears the way for Trump and his lawyers to ramp up their verbal attacks on the trial, which they have characterized as a politically motivated farce carried out by the New York attorney general's office and the judge, New York Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron.

"I'm free," Trump's lawyer, Alina Habba joked to reporters after Thursday's order.

"We've seen this now time and time again where judges overreach and take a Constitutionally-protected right to free speech — and political speech is even more protected — and gag him and his lawyers," Habba continued.

The gag had first been ordered by Engoron, on October 3, just a day after opening statements.

It came in response to Trump posting to Truth Social a photo of Engoron's law clerk, who was standing next to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.

In it, he named the clerk, linked to her social media account, and falsely called her "Schumer's girlfriend."

"Personal attacks on members of my court staff are unacceptable and inappropriate and I will not tolerate them under any circumstances," Engoron had said in announcing the gag order.

On November 3, Engoron extended the gag order to include Trump's lawyers after Trump's lawyers made what the judge called "on the record, repeated, inappropriate remarks" about the same clerk.

Trump and his lawyers are now free to make written and spoken criticisms of the judge's staff members pending the full appellate decision. It was a rare win in a case where the lion's share of decisions have gone against Trump.

The gag — the first Trump had faced in his current civil and criminal cases — has been lifted only on an interim basis.

A full panel of judges will now weigh Trump's appeal of what his lawyer, Christopher Kise, on Thursday argued was "prior restraint on political speech by a front-running presidential candidate."

Lawyers for the New York attorney general's office and for the state court system now have until November 22 to file appellate papers in support of the gag. Trump's lawyers must respond by November 27, after which a full panel of the New York Appellate Division's First Department will decide if the gag stays or goes permanently.

By then the trial may be only two weeks or less away from the conclusion of testimony.

Before lifting the gag on Thursday, Associate Justice David Friedman noted that Engoron reported being "inundated" with threatening phone calls prior to anything Trump said about his clerk.

"If he says that the court staff is biased against him, is that a threat?" Friedman also asked during arguments.

"It's not that Mr. Trump has directly issued threats to staff, responded Lisa Evans, an attorney for the state court system.

But his attacks have led Trump's constituents to send "hundreds and hundreds of anti-Semitic comments" to the law clerk's personal email and personal cell phone, she said.

"We all know about doxxing," she added. The law clerk "is playing whack-a-mole now. She's getting hundreds and hundreds of messages a day."

According to James's lawsuit, Trump's financial statements, which were used to win hundreds of millions in interest-rate breaks and sales profits, contained as much as $3.6 billion in fraudulent exaggerations of what the former president's properties and assets were worth.

Newly ungagged, Habba wasted no time Thursday afternoon in verbally attacking the law clerk outside the courthouse after Thursday's decision.

"She is in the judge's ear time and time again, and if she had a real threat she should get off the bench," Habba told reporters.

"You can tell I had a lot of pent-up stuff," she joked afterward.

Read the original article on Business Insider