The judge presiding over Donald Trump's New York civil real estate fraud case on Tuesday imposed a gag order on the former president after he disparaged a court staffer.
New York State court Judge Arthur Engoron issued the order after Trump recirculated on his Truth Social site a critical social media post about Engoron's principal law clerk, Allison Greenfield.
The post included a photo of Greenfield with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer posing for a picture at a public event. Trump referred to Greenfield as "Schumer's girlfriend."
Trump's post was later deleted.
Engoron told lawyers for Trump and New York Attorney General Letitia James that attacks on his staff were "unacceptable, inappropriate and will not be tolerated under any circumstances."
He said the order applies to all parties in the case and pertains to verbal attacks on court staff. He also promised "serious sanctions" for any violations.
Earlier Tuesday, Trump claimed he is "worth far more" than the listed assets at stake in his fraud case, not less as James has alleged.
Trump voluntarily showed up to hear testimony for a second straight day after assailing James on his Truth Social media site, calling her a "Monster" and a "Trump Deranged Lunatic."
James has accused Trump of inflating the values of his real estate assets on financial forms to get better interest rates on business loans and lower insurance premiums.
But Trump declared the opposite is true.
"In actuality, I am WORTH FAR MORE than the numbers put down on the Financial Statements, not less," he said.
Walking into court, Trump contended to reporters that his wintertime retreat, the oceanside Mar-a-Lago resort in the southern state of Florida, is worth $1.5 billion, compared with the $18 million valuation listed by Florida tax officials.
Trump, the leading 2024 Republican presidential contender, said James "should be reprimanded and sanctioned for bringing this case with its FAKE LOW VALUES, in order to make me look bad. Election Interference!"
James is seeking fines of up to $250 million against Trump, his two adult sons, Donald Jr. and Eric, a takeover of key real estate assets held by the Trump Organization and revocation of their right to do business in New York.
Engoron, hearing and deciding the case without a jury, last week made an initial ruling that the former U.S. leader had committed fraud in the valuations of his assets listed on financial forms and now is considering other issues in a trial that could last nearly through the end of the year.
Trump has called Engoron a "rogue judge" who should reverse his fraud ruling and dismiss the case.
"He's been given false information, misleading information and corrupt information by a very corrupt and incompetent Attorney General Letitia James," Trump said.
Trump claims that real estate experts often disagree on asset valuations and noted that his financial forms contain a disclaimer clause that the information in it should not necessarily be trusted.
Moreover, he says that whatever loans he got using the disputed valuations were repaid, meaning that lenders were not victimized if his asset valuations proved to be incorrect.
"It's a scam. It's a sham," Trump said Monday on the opening day of the case.
"My best asset is my brand," Trump declared. "We have a great company."
In granting a partial summary judgment on James' case last week, Engoron cited "false and misleading square footage" of Trump's Fifth Avenue apartment among the faulty valuations. The 19,000-square-foot discrepancy — a calculation not subject to interpretation — resulted in an estimated property value inflation "between $114-207 million dollars."
James told reporters, "Donald Trump and the other defendants have committed persistent and repeated fraud. My message is simple: No matter how powerful you are, no matter how much money you think you may have, no one is above the law. Justice will prevail."
Trump was not required to appear at the trial, but the stakes are high for him, personally and politically. As a politician, he often has characterized himself as a successful multibillionaire who could run the country like a chief executive officer runs a successful company.
But rulings in the case could tarnish that image, and he could lose control of some of his prized assets. Engoron's fraud ruling last week, if upheld on appeal, would shift control of some of Trump's companies to a court-appointed receiver and could force him to give up high-end New York properties, such as Trump Tower, a Wall Street office building, golf courses and a suburban estate.
Trump called it a "a corporate death penalty."
Trump did not appear in court as either a witness or a spectator when his company and one of its top executives were convicted of tax fraud last year. He didn't show, either, for a trial earlier this year in which a jury found him liable for sexually assaulting the writer E. Jean Carroll in a New York department store dressing room and ordered him to pay her $5 million.
In addition to the business fraud case, in the coming months Trump is facing another civil defamation case brought by Carroll and four criminal indictments.
In the criminal cases, Trump, 77, faces 91 allegations. He could be sent to prison for years if he is convicted on any of them.
In two of the cases, he is accused of illegally trying to overturn his 2020 election loss to President Joe Biden. In the other cases, he is accused of illegally hoarding highly classified national security documents at Mar-a-Lago when he left office in early 2021 and falsifying Trump Organization business records to hide hush money payments to a pornographic film actress ahead of his successful 2016 run for the presidency.
Three of the cases are set for trial in the first half of 2024 during Trump's political campaign, although pre-trial legal wrangling could delay their start.
Some information for this article came from The Associated Press and Reuters.