The judge presiding over Donald Trump’s $250 million civil fraud trial on Friday imposed a partial gag order on members of the former president’s legal team after he said they made “on the record, repeated, inappropriate remarks” about his principal law clerk.
Judge Arthur Engoron’s order said that Christopher Kise, Clifford Robert and Alina Habba, lawyers for the former president and his adult sons, “are prohibited from making any public statements, in or out of court, that refer to any confidential communications, in any form, between my staff and me.”
“Failure to abide by this directive shall result in serious sanctions,” Engoron warned.
He said in his order that the three lawyers made remarks about his clerk, “falsely accusing her of bias against them and of improperly influencing the ongoing bench trial.”
The attorneys, he said, had alleged that it’s improper for a judge to consult with a law clerk during ongoing proceedings and that the passing of notes between them has the “appearance of impropriety.”
“These arguments have no basis,” Engoron said in his order.
The judge added that he will “continue to consult with my staff, as is my unfettered right, throughout the remainder of the trial.”
The order comes after the trial continued on Friday morning with Engoron arguing with Trump’s lawyers about the role of his law clerk. The judge pushed back on the Trump team’s argument that he’s too “intertwined” with his clerk, who passed him notes and sometimes whispered to him during testimony. Engoron said he spoke to another judge who had a similar relationship with a law clerk, and the clerk’s role is far from unprecedented, as Trump’s lawyers have claimed.
Kise responded, “Yes, as a judge you are entitled to receive advice. But if you are receiving advice in a way that is indicative of bias, we have to make a record” of it. “The rulings are frequently, if not inordinately, against us on every major issue,” Kise complained.
Engoron issued a gag order to Trump last month after he made disparaging remarks about the law clerk on social media and to reporters. He was fined twice for violating the gag order.