Trump called to witness stand and fined $10k for violating gag order in fraud trial

Donald Trump’s first turn on the witness stand during the multiple criminal and civil cases against him arrived on 25 October, when the former president was called to testify about his comments outside the courtroom during his fraud trial in New York.

He was fined $10,000 after the judge presiding over the case found that the former president violated the case’s gag order, again, with disparaging comments about his chief clerk steps away from the courtroom’s doors in lower Manhattan.

Mr Trump was called to the witness stand by Judge Arthur Engoron to testify about statements he gave to reporters on 25 October, in which he criticised a “very partisan judge” and “a person who’s very partisan sitting alongside of him,” what the judge determined was a comment aimed at his chief clerk.

The former president and his attorneys argued that Mr Trump was referring to Michael Cohen, his former lawyer who was testifying against him.

“To whom were you referring when you said the person ‘sitting alongside’?” the judge asked Mr Trump after he was sworn into court at the witness stand.

“You, and Cohen,” Mr Trump said.

The judge determined that Mr Trump is “not credible” and fined him $10,000 for what is now Mr Trump’s second violation of the order.

“Don’t do it again or it will be worse,” the judge said.

Issued on 3 October, the judge’s gag order prevents all parties in the case from posting, emailing or speaking publicly about members of the court’s staff after Mr Trump posted false statements on his Truth Social about the judge’s chief clerk who sits beside him.

Outside the courtroom during a brief trial break on Wednesday, Mr Trump told reporters: “If we had a jury it would have been fair, at least – even if it was a somewhat negative jury – because no negative jury would vote against me. But this judge will. Because this judge is a very partisan judge, with a person who’s very partisan sitting alongside of him, perhaps even much more partisan than he is.”

Judge Engoron asked Mr Trump whether those comments were directed to his chief clerk Allison Greenfield. Earlier this month, the former president and frontrunner for the 2024 Republican nomination posted false statements and a photo of Ms Greenfield on his Truth Social account. The judge then ordered him to delete it.

Last week, the judge fined him $5,000 for violating a subsequent gag order, after a version of the post was discovered on a Trump website.

“I think she is a very biased … We put up a picture and you didn’t want that up. I think we got if off our website,” Mr Trump said from the witness stand on Wednesday.

“We have so many different sites … I believe it was one of the political groups, one of the PACs,” he added.

Attorneys for the former president in his closely watched trial spent two days trying to undermine testimony Cohen’s testimony by depicting him as a serial opportunist who exploited his connections to the former president for his own wealth and fame.

Cohen, a star witness in a trial stemming from a multi-million dollar lawsuit threatening Mr Trump’s business empire, previously testified that he was instructed to “reverse engineer” his former employer’s statements of financial condition to reflect his target number for his “arbitrarily” determined net worth.

Asked by counsel for the attorney general’s office on 24 October what that number was, Cohen replied: “Whatever number Mr Trump told us to.”

Questions from Mr Trump’s attorney Alina Habba, who paced in front of the courtroom as she directed dozens of queries to Cohen, appeared to argue that Cohen leveraged his connections to Mr Trump to avoid harsher criminal penalties in his own court cases.

After Judge Engoron denied an attempt from Mr Trump’s attorneys to render a verdict in favour of Mr Trump, following serveral hours of cross examination from Ms Habba, the former president tossed his hands in frustration and left the courtroom.

Mr Trump’s attorneys argued that Cohen’s credibility has blown the attorney general’s case apart, an argument that Judge Engoron vehemently rejected.

“Absolutely not,” the judge said. “This case has evidence, credible or not, all over the place.”

He said that “no way, no how is this case being dismissed,” and that “there’s enough evidence in the case to fill a courtroom.”

This is a developing story