Trump melts down on Truth Social after judge says his denial "rings hollow and untrue"

Judge Arthur Engoron found Trump's claim that he wasn't targeting his law clerk "not credible"

By Tatyana Tandanpolie

Staff Writer

Published October 26, 2023 2:19PM (EDT)

Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to the media at New York State Supreme court during the second day of the civil fraud trial against him on October 03, 2023 in New York City. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to the media at New York State Supreme court during the second day of the civil fraud trial against him on October 03, 2023 in New York City. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron on Thursday released a written order detailing why he determined Donald Trump's Wednesday sworn testimony denying that he attacked a court clerk "rings hollow and untrue" after he fined the former president $10,000 for his second violation of a partial gag order meant to protect courtroom staff.

The former president had claimed on the witness stand that he had been referring to his former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen as the "partisan" sitting "alongside" Engoron when he spoke to reporters outside the courtroom on Wednesday. But the judge was unconvinced, deeming that excuse "not credible."

"Witnesses do not sit 'alongside' the judge, they sit in the witness box, separated from the judge by a low wooden barrier," Engoron wrote in the order, obtained by The Messenger. "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, he is unambiguous in making it known he is referring to Michael Cohen."

He added: "Using imprecise language as an excuse to create plausible ambiguity about whether defendant violated this Court's unequivocal gag order is not a defense; the subject of Donald Trump's public statement to the press was unmistakably clear."

Chris Kise, an attorney for the former president, began Thursday's proceeding by challenging Engoron's order, insisting that Trump was deeming Cohen the "partisan" and not the clerk, The Messenger's Adam Klasfeld reported.  

Kise further argued that, even if Trump were referring to the clerk Wednesday, he is "entitled to comment" on her as barring him from doing so "violates the First Amendment." He also mentioned that Trump observed the clerk taking notes on the defense's arguments.

"Everyone can observe the law secretary on the bench," Kise said, adding, "There's no attempt to shield that public fact."

The attorney general's counsel also came to the order's defense, noting that the First Amendment has limits and that the Washington, D.C. judge presiding over Trump's federal election subversion case also instated a gag order, which was paused after Trump appealed it. 

"It's not naming anyone. It's not a post on the website. It's not a disparaging comment," Kise said, arguing that Trump does have a legitimate reason to comment on the clerk because of her role in the trial.

"Anybody can run for president. I have a right to protect my staff," Engoron responded. "I don't think that's impinging on anybody's First Amendment rights to protect my staff."

The judge defended his seeking the clerk's active input in the proceedings as "certainly within my purview and discretion" before asserting that he does not "consider this trial political at all."

Later in the proceeding, Engoron affirmed his sanction order after reviewing Trump's remarks to the press, responding to Kise's argument that Trump spoke about Cohen right after referring to the "partisan" by saying, "there was a brief but clear transition" before that comment.

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The former president had his own choice words for Engoron, dubbing him a "Radical Left judge" and the case a "Complete and Total Miscarriage of Justice" in posts to Truth Social Thursday morning ahead of the hearing. 

"The Radical Left Judge who should not be handling the FAKE & FULLY DISCREDITED CASE brought against me by the New York State A.G. (It should be handled by the Commercial Division, but should never have been brought!), fined me $10,000 yesterday under his so-called gag order," Trump began in the first post. "He is a judge that found me GUILTY before the trial even started, and long before he had the real facts, like Michael Cohen collapsing and choking yesterday under cross examination, and completely admitting that I did nothing wrong. He committed MASSIVE PERJURY, at a level seldom seen on the stand before. It was like watching 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.'

"This case should be ended, NOW, but this Judge and his 'boss,' Letitia Peekaboo James, will never let that happen," he continued. "He even refuses to accept our big win in the Appeals Court. It is a disgrace to the legal system in the State of New York. This is a RIGGED CASE!"

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The former president continued to attack the judge and, later, the attorney general in his second post, accusing Engoron of going "CRAZY IN HIS HATRED OF 'TRUMP.'"

"The Judge in the New York State A.G. case refuses to accept the overturning of his decisions by the Appeals Court. This is a first in the history of the State! HE HAS GONE CRAZY IN HIS HATRED OF 'TRUMP.' Also, their 'STAR' witness just admitted his statements were all a big lie. He broke down in court. The Radical Left Judge said he doesn’t care," Trump wrote.

"He is trying to protect RACIST A.G. Letitia James, who has no case, lost the appeal, but has a tyrannical and unhinged Trump Hating Judge. She campaigned for A.G. on, “I Will Get Trump,” long before she knew anything about me," he concluded. "This is Judicial Misconduct, coupled with Prosecutorial Misconduct, and somebody from the State of New York must step in and stop this Complete & Total Miscarriage of Justice!"

By Tatyana Tandanpolie

Tatyana Tandanpolie is a staff writer at Salon. Born and raised in central Ohio, she moved to New York City in 2018 to pursue degrees in Journalism and Africana Studies at New York University. She is currently based in her home state and has previously written for local Columbus publications, including Columbus Monthly, CityScene Magazine and The Columbus Dispatch.

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Aggregate Arthur Engoron Chris Kise Donald Trump Letitia James Politics