The judge in Donald Trump's civil fraud trial has issued a gag order on his lawyers, citing their "repeated, inappropriate remarks" about court staff and the "hundreds" of threats that the court has received since the trial began.
In his ruling on Friday, New York County Judge Arthur Engoron said Trump's lawyers had singled out his principal law clerk, "falsely accusing her of bias against them and of improperly influencing the ongoing bench trial."
The threat of, and actual, violence resulting from heated political rhetoric is well-documented. Since the commencement of this bench trial, my chambers have been inundated with hundreds of harassing and threating [sic] phone calls, voicemails, emails, letters, and packages.
The ruling comes after several tense exchanges in court between Engoron, who is overseeing the $250 million civil fraud trial against the Trump family and their company, and Trump's lawyer Christopher Kise. Kise had repeatedly taken issue with the judge's communications with his clerk, who passes notes and at times whispers to him during testimony, NBC News reports.
The clerk has been something of a fixation for Trump and his team. It was after the former president suggested the clerk was dating Sen. Chuck Schumer (who is married) that the judge initially issued the gag order. Trump has been fined twice since then for violating the order, to the tune of $15,000.
Trump’s attacks on public officials have often led to threats and harassment. As Engoron wrote in his ruling, his court staff has also faced a barrage of alarming threats since the trial began.
In court on Friday, Kise brought up an article that claimed a random Twitter account had submitted a complaint about the clerk's "partisan political and Democratic activities." The article in question was from Breitbart, a right-wing website not known for its rigorous journalistic standards. Kise said that he had not verified the allegations in the article himself but may move for a mistrial if they can be substantiated.