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Trump called to testify in gag order dispute, fined $10,000 by judge in New York fraud trial

Former President Donald Trump briefly testified under oath Wednesday in his New York civil fraud trial, after the judge in the case harshly criticized a comment Trump made earlier in the day.

The judge, Arthur Engoron, then issued him a $10,000 fine for what he found to be a violation of a limited gag order barring Trump from making inflammatory comments about court staff.

During a mid-morning break, Trump made a reference to the gathered press about “a person who is very partisan sitting alongside” Engoron. The judge’s clerk, Allison Greenfield, typically sits right next to the judge, and during pretrial hearings often questioned attorneys for the two sides herself. She and lawyers for Trump have had many heated exchanges over the years.

Immediately after Trump’s comment, Engoron expressed dismay at the remark and said it might have violated a limited gag order previously put in place after Trump made a derogatory social media post about Greenfield. Trump and others in the case were barred on Oct. 3 from commenting publicly about the judge’s staff.

During the court’s lunch break, after reporters were led from the room, lawyers from both sides and Trump remained inside for nearly an hour. When court resumed, Trump was immediately called to the stand and sworn in. Engoron questioned him.

Trump acknowledged making the statement, but said it was about “you and Cohen.” (Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer and “fixer,” had been testifying for the second day.)

“You didn’t mean the person on the other side of me?” Engoron asked, referring to Greenfield.

“Yes, I’m sure,” Trump said.

Soon after, Trump was allowed off the stand and Engoron issued him a $10,000 fine.

Attorneys for Trump protested, saying Greenfield’s behavior was unusual for a law clerk.

Trump attorney Alina Habba said she “does not like being yelled at by law clerks who did not earn the robe,” and said Greenfield’s “influence on the bench is completely inappropriate and it should stop.”

Engoron countered that his practice is to consult with his law clerks.

“I value input from both my law clerks,” Engoron said. “Every judge does things differently. I don’t know if others have them sit on the bench, that’s how I do things. I make the final decisions.”

This is the second time Trump has been fined since the gag order was put in place. He was fined $5,000 on Oct. 20because a replication of the since-deleted social media post that sparked the order had never been taken down from a campaign site.

Engoron implied Trump will be fined more if he breaks the gag order again.

“Do it again, it’ll be worse,” Engoron said.

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