When he left the courtroom in his civil fraud trial on 24 October, Donald Trump learned that another one of his former campaign attorneys pleaded guilty in Georgia, and that his White House chief of staff knew his 2020 election claims were bogus.
The next day, after spending two days fuming at the defence table, arms crossed, shoulders hunched, staring into a middle distance and forced to listen to his former attorney Michael Cohen testify against him, the former president stood outside the lower Manhattan courtroom’s heavy wooden doors and violated a gag order in the case a second time.
And after the judge overseeing the case roundly rejected Mr Trump’s attorneys’ request to close the case, the former president tossed up his arms, got out of his seat and abruptly left the room.
On 26 October, he logged into his Truth Social account.
He launched a series of attacks against the judge overseeing his fraud trial, the attorney general suing him, the witness testifying against him, and a reporter who wrote about his two days in court, a streak of insults after the former president’s one-time allies turned against him in cases that threaten his business and election prospects.
In courtroom testimony this week, his former loyalists have rejected the false election claims surrounding his 2020 attempts to remain in power as well as the vast net worth he reported in statements to financial institutions.
As his trial resumed without him on Wednesday, Mr Trump turned to his Truth Social to blast the “fake and fully discredited case” and the “radical left judge” presiding over it.
He wrote that Cohen was “collapsing and choking” and “chocking [sic] like a dog” on the witness stand and “broke down” in court.
The former president wrote that Cohen committed “MASSIVE PERJURY, at a level seldom seen on the stand before”, comparing what he claims he witnessed to “the end of the best Petty Mason [sic] episode, where the defendant breaks down and cries, ‘Yes, I did it, I did it, I did it.’”
But Cohen didn’t do that.
Earlier this week, Cohen testified that he was “tasked by Mr Trump to increase the total assets based upon a number that he arbitrarily elected” for his statement of financial condition, the documents at the centre of the case.
Cohen and convicted former Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg were instructed to “reverse engineer the various different asset classes – increase those assets – in order to achieve the number that Mr Trump had tasked us with,” Cohen said.
Asked by counsel for the attorney general’s office what that number was, Cohen replied: “Whatever number Mr Trump told us to.”
Cohen, speaking deliberately and slowly under questioning from the attorney general’s office, told the court that he conducted the former president’s business “at the direction of, in concert with and for the benefit of Mr Trump.”
Mr Trump’s attorney Alina Habba, pacing the courtroom as she volleyed questions to Cohen, showed him a series of glowing statements he gave to the press about his former boss from the years he was an employee of the Trump Organization.
Under questioning from his attorneys, Cohen agreed that his former boss never asked him to “inflate” the figures at the centre of the case, but that his commands were implicit rather than explicit.
“Donald Trump speaks like a mob boss,” Cohen testified. “He tells you what he wants without specifically telling you … That’s what I was referring to.”
“When did I break down?” Cohen wrote on X, formerly Twitter, on Thursday. “Is he referring to me laughing at him and his minion of moron lawyers? In fact, Judge Engoron stated ‘I do not find you (Trump) credible’. Meaning…Donald, you’re a f***** liar and perjurer as you were under oath!”
In a written order finding that Mr Trump violated the court’s gag order, Judge Arthur Engoron wrote that the former president’s testimony in his defense of the statements he made outside the courtroom “rings hollow and untrue”.
In statements to the press steps outside the courtroom on Wednesday, Mr Trump criticised the “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.
Mr Trump’s attorneys claimed he was referring to Cohen.
The judge wasn’t convinced. He called Mr Trump to testify. The judge said he did not find his testimony credible.
“The Oxford English Dictionary defines ‘alongside’ as ‘close to the side of; next to.’ Witnesses do not sit ‘alongside’ the judge, they sit in the witness box, separated from the judge by a low wooden barrier,” Judge Engoron wrote in a written version of his order posted publicly on Thursday.
“Further, Donald Trump’s past public statements demonstrate him referring to Michael Cohen directly by his name, or by a derogatory name, but in all circumstances, his in unambiguous in making it known he is referring to Michael Cohen,” he wrote.
The language he used in his statement to reporters “mirrors” language he used weeks earlier, when he “inappropriately and unquestionably” aired false statements about the judge’s chief clerk, he wrote.
“Using imprecise language as an excuse to create plausible ambiguity about whether the defendant violated this court’s unequivocal gag order is not a defense; the subject of Donald Trump’s statements in the press was unmistakably clear,” he added.
He wrote that Mr Trump “intentionally violated the gag order” and ordered him to post a proof of payment of the latest fine as well as the one imposed last week within two days of making them.