NEW YORK – Former President Trump was fined $5,000 on Friday by Justice Arthur Engoron of the New York State Supreme Court for continuing to show a social media post targeting Engoron’s law clerk on Trump’s campaign website, despite a gag order issued by the judge earlier this month.
Related to a $250 million civil lawsuit against Trump and his commercial enterprises, Engoron warned he would consider jailing Trump for any future violations of the gag order.
After Trump publicly criticized Allison Greenfield, Engoron’s chief law clerk, on his Truth Social platform on October 3, the judge ordered the gag order. Trump swiftly deleted the offensive tweet from Twitter and Facebook that day, but it stayed on his campaign website until late on the 19th.
Although Trump’s attorneys argued the breach was “inadvertent,” Engoron noted in a two-page order that Greenfield was nevertheless negatively affected by the post “unmitigated by how or why it remained on Donald Trump’s website for 17 days.”
“In the current overheated climate, incendiary untruths can, and in some cases already have, led to serious physical harm, and worse,” said the judge.
Details of the Original Post and Gag Order
Earlier this month, a post on Truth Social with a photo of Greenfield erroneously stated that she was “running this case” and that she was Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s “girlfriend.” Upon Engoron’s original request, the message was removed from Truth Social and distributed to Trump’s campaign mailing list.
On the evening of October 19th, however, Engoron learned that the post had remained on Trump’s campaign website. Later, he explained that the removal of the post was made “in response to an email from this Court.”
The first formal sanction for breaking a gag order is a fine of $5,000, which is rather minor for the wealthy ex-president. Both in this New York civil action and a separate federal criminal prosecution in Washington, DC, Trump is subject to gag orders.
Escalating Tensions and Concerns Over Safety
Because of Trump’s internet attacks against public authorities, Judge Engoron is concerned that tensions may rise and violence may break out.
“In the current overheated climate, incendiary untruths can, and in some cases already have, led to serious physical harm, and worse,” said Engoron.
It’s possible that the judge is alluding to both the attack on the United States Capitol in January 2021 and the current attack on Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband in their San Francisco home. After the search of Mar-a-Lago in August, Trump fans have threatened violence against FBI agents and other officials.
It’s nothing new for Trump to spread inaccurate and provocative claims about his opponents on social media and during campaign rallies. A growing number of judges, however, appear concerned that his words could incite violence against those who are merely doing their duties.
Ongoing Legal Issues for Trump
Trump is being investigated criminally for his involvement in the attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6 and his handling of confidential data after leaving office, in addition to the civil lawsuit he faces in New York over suspected financial fraud.
U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan in Washington D.C. imposed a gag order prohibiting Trump from disparaging witnesses and authorities involved in the criminal investigation. She said “his presidential candidacy does not give him carte blanche to vilify … public servants who are simply doing their job.”
On Friday, Chutkan temporarily removed the gag order while she considers Trump’s request for a longer stay pending the outcome of his appeal.
The ex-president has been in the middle of multiple scandals and court cases before. The presiding judges, however, appear to be growing increasingly frustrated with his standard tactics. The potential for jail time for violating a gag order is a stark reminder that Trump’s usual strategy may no longer be accepted.
Continued Fallout Expected
Trump is gearing up his presidential campaign for 2024 by attacking the character of government personnel conducting investigations either him or his aides. This means that the tensions are likely to continue rising, with potentially grave consequences.
Trump may face further repercussions than only the $5,000 penalties for violating the gag orders issued by the courts. If he continues to make threats against government officials online and at rallies, he risks facing jail time as well.
Since Trump shows no signs of tempering his tone, the judges may feel compelled to carry out their threats of increased sanctions. The former president is balancing the right to free expression with the duty not to improperly affect pending litigation.