Donald Trump has been fined for violating a gag order once again – this time to the tune of $10,000 – after publicly criticizing the judge and his staff in his fraud trial outside of the court.
Judge Arthur Engoron forced the former president to take the stand after the lunch recess on Wednesday to explain remarks he made earlier during a morning break in the case.
Speaking outside the courtroom, Trump had told reporters: ‘This judge is a very partisan judge, with a person who’s very partisan sitting alongside of him, perhaps even much more partisan than he is’ – an apparent reference to his clerk Allison Greenfield.
Trump slowly got up from his seat at a bench between his attorneys and sat in the witness box, adjusting himself back to make room for his body.
Repeating his lawyer’s earlier claims, Trump said he had been referring to his former fixer who was testifying, Michael Cohen – not Greenfield – but failed to convince the judge.
Judge Engoron said that he found Trump’s testimony ‘not credible’ and ordered him to be fined for the second time.
Earlier in Wednesday’s proceedings Judge Engoron paused testimony on Wednesday to scold the former president for his remarks.
Midway through key witness Michael Cohen’s cross examination, Judge Arthur Engoron broke off to address Trump’s ‘blatant, dangerous disobeyal’ of his court order not to speak about his staff.
Reading a report by the Associated Press, he referred to Trump’s quotes calling the judge ‘very partisan’ and the person ‘sitting next to him’ ‘even more partisan’ – in an apparent reference to his clerk Allison Greenfield.
The comments, made outside the courtroom during the morning break, came after Trump was fined $5,000 last week for violating Engoron’s gag order barring him from disparaging court staff during the trial.
Addressing the issue again on Wednesday, Judge Engoron said he imposed the order because ‘I don’t want anybody killed.’
It was ‘very easy for anyone to know who that person is’, the judge said.
Trump’s lawyer Christopher Kise responded saying his client had been referring to Cohen, who sat in the witness box to the judge’s left.
When the judge asked if Trump could explain who he was speaking about, Kise said he had asked him already.
With Trump sitting with his defense team, his lawyer Alina Habba confronted his former fixer Michael Cohen with comments he had made praising Trump, before turning on him when Cohen’s legal problems started in 2018
Judge Arthur Engoron briefly paused the proceedings just before the court broke for lunch Wednesday to scold Trump for publicly speaking out against him and his clerk Allison Greenfield (left)
Wednesday’s cross-examination got off to a tense start Wednesday with Trump’s lawyer Alina Habba (right) asking Cohen again about his prior convictions
Judge Engoron said he thought it meant his law clerk and ‘seemed clear to me’, pointing out there was a physical barrier between him and the witness in the courtroom.
The judge said he would take the matter ‘under advisement’ and did not rule on whether to issue what he said could be ‘severe’ sanctions.
Earlier in Wednesday’s proceedings, Habba had complained about ‘eye rolls and constant whispering’ between the judge and Greenfield.
Habba said it was ‘incredibly distracting’ when she was trying to cross examine Michael Cohen, Trump’s former fixer and personal lawyer.
Judge Engoron said: ‘OK, granted’.
Cohen, who cut ties with Trump five years ago, returned to the stand again on Wednesday to undergo further cross-examination by defense lawyers who have sought to undermine his credibility by painting him as a convicted felon and serial liar.
The exchange got off to a tense start with Trump’s lawyer Alina Habba asking Cohen again about his prior convictions and highlighting his admission that he had perjured himself before a judge when he was prosecuted for tax evasion and other crimes in 2018.
Prosecutor Colleen Faherty said she was ‘concerned’ and that the ‘showmanship’ from Trump’s lawyers should ‘not be permitted’.
As Alina Habba, who was cross examining Cohen, smiled and shook her head, Faherty said: ‘I’d ask for courtesy and respect and we proceed without this showmanship of words like perjury.’
Clifford Robert, another of Trump’s lawyers, said that the perjury went to the ‘credibility of the witness’ and that they planned to talk about ‘other acts of perjury today’.
‘A serial liar is a serial liar. The case of Attorney General hinges on his perjurious witness who has lied to everyone he has ever spoken to,’ he said.
Trump was once again reprimanded for violating a gag order imposed by the judge after he was quoted calling the judge ‘very partisan’ and the person ‘sitting right beside him perhaps even more partisan than he is’ – in comments made outside the courtroom earlier this morning
Before testimony could resume on Wednesday morning, Habba complained about ‘eye rolls and constant whispering’ between the judge and his clerk, Allison Greenfield
Trump – who is not required to attend proceedings – returned to the courtroom on Wednesday to hear the remainder of his former confidant’s testimony
Judge Arthur Engorgon told Robert to ‘not make speeches’.
He said: ‘I believe that perjury implies a conviction.
‘You want to say he’s lying, say he’s lying but let’s not use the word perjury’.
Tensions flared again moments later when Cohen balked at a question put to him by Habba.
She shot back: ‘I’m sure you’re going to do that with me every time and I don’t care for it’.
The court was shown Trump’s financial statements from 2015 which listed his net worth as $6.5billion.
Lawyers then pointed to Cohen’s CNN appearance at the time in which he declared that Trump was worth over $10billion – even referring to the figure as ‘a low estimate.’
When asked if he had made those comments in the interview, Cohen replied: ‘That’s what Mr. Trump wanted me to say, yes.’
Habba snapped back that she was ‘not surprised’ by his response, saying Cohen was ‘very good at blaming others.’
The court was shown the interview on CNN in which the interviewer asked: ‘Why does Donald Trump want to talk so much about how rich he is?’
The clip prompted laughter from the court, however, Trump did not appear to react.
Habba asked Cohen if he recognized himself, and he said he did, though he was ‘less gray.’
The court was shown a section of Cohen’s 2020 book titled ‘Disloyal’ in which he described getting lucrative contracts from companies like Novartis and AT&T who were ‘desperate for insights and connection to the president’
Trump denies any wrongdoing and has claimed AG Letitia James, a Democrat, is targeting the leading Republican presidential candidate in 2024 for partisan reasons
Michael Cohen arrives at former President Donald Trump’s civil fraud trial in New York for a second day of testimony
Moving on, Habba asked if Cohen knew Robert Costello, a New York-based lawyer. Cohen repeatedly said he did not.
Cohen denied telling Costello: ‘I swear to God I don’t have anything on Donald Trump’ and he would ‘do whatever the f*** it takes to avoid jail time.’
Habba turned to Cohen’s cooperation with the Attorney General’s office and said that she had ‘personally thanked you’ for being one of the ‘central reasons’ for their case.
Cohen looked at New York Attorney General Letitia James, who was sitting in the public gallery, and said: ‘You’re welcome’.
Habba said that his comment was ‘telling’ and Cohen shot back he was ‘being comical.’
Habba asked Cohen about why he was never named as a defendant in the case despite claiming to have a central role in the fraud.
She said: ‘The Attorney General must not believe your story is credible?’
Cohen said: ‘You’re drawing a conclusion I don’t know. You can ask Miss James’,.
From the public gallery, James raised her hand and said: ‘Object’, sparking laughter in court.
Habba then turned to Cohen’s comments praising Trump in the past.
Cohen agreed he had a ‘very high regard’ for Trump before they fell out and had a ‘long history of praising’ him.
Habba said: ‘Your opinion of Mr. Trump was so high you once stated you would take a bullet to him?’
Cohen said that it was from an article with Vanity Fair.
Cohen also agreed that he once said he was the man who ‘protected the President and his family’ and insisted he would ‘never run away from Donald Trump’, as Habba put it.
Habba suggested that Cohen became frustrated with Trump while he was in the White House when he did not name him his chief of staff.
Cohen scoffed and said he didn’t ask for the post and it was a ‘joke’ because of his closeness to Trump. He asked for and was given the role of personal attorney to the President, he said.
New York Attorney General Letitia James sits in the courtroom during the fourth week of trial. James is seeking at least $250million in fines and a permanent ban against Trump and his sons Donald Jr and Eric from running businesses in New York
Eric Trump was also seen returning to court on Wednesday for trial proceedings. His father, his brother Don Jr and the Trump family business are accused of artificially inflating the value of properties, in New York Attorney General Letitia James’s civil case against them
The court was shown text messages sent between Cohen and an individual called ‘Person 4’ from March 2017 in which they discussed who would be the next chief of staff.
Person 4 said that Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner would be ‘too close’ to Trump.
Cohen said: ‘Keep guessing dopey’.
Person 4 wrote: ‘Stop!!! You???’
Cohen said: ‘I will give you a hint….yes.’
Person 4 said: ‘Omg. Please be true. Are you serious you need to.’
Cohen said: ‘He needs to ask. I would never (ask)’.
Asked about the exchange by Habba, Cohen said he was happy with the job he got and there was ‘no shame in being personal attorney to the President’.
Judge Arthur Engoron presides over former President Donald Trump’s civil business fraud trial at New York Supreme Court
Habba turned to Cohen’s finances and said that after the election he set up a consultancy company to ‘cash in’ on his relationship with Trump.
The court was shown a section of Cohen’s 2020 book titled ‘Disloyal’ in which he described getting lucrative contracts from companies like Novartis and AT&T who were ‘desperate for insights and connection to the President and willing to pay for my assistance’.
Cohen wrote: ‘Was I cashing in on my relationship with Trump? Of course I was. What would you do?
Habba asked: ‘You launched a personal company known as Essential Consultants LLC as a way to cash in on your relationship with the President of the United States’.
Cohen said: ‘That’s not correct.’
Habba asked: ‘Did you use this company to accrue lucrative clients?’
Cohen said: ‘Insights and connections, yes.’
Yet Cohen confirmed that he received more than $4million in payments to his consultancy company.
Habba turned to Cohen’s feelings towards Trump and asked if he had ‘significant animosity towards President Trump?’
He replied: ‘Do I have animosity towards him? Yes I do.’
Trump, sitting 15 feet away at a table with his lawyers, did not react.
Habba asked if Cohen vented his animosity on social media. He confirmed he did use social media but alone it was not enough to express ‘all my animosity’ towards his former boss, prompting laughter in the court.
Cohen laughed when Habba asked if he continued to financially benefit from Trump.
But he conceded he had, as Habba put it, ‘made a career out of publicly attacking President Trump.’
Habba continued her assault on Cohen by asking: ‘President Trump makes you relevant, doesn’t he, Mr. Cohen?’
Cohen responded that ‘circumstances make me relevant’.
Walking towards Trump and stabbing her finger into the air, Habba said ‘The circumstances that you used to work for the President of the United States, who is the single most important presidential candidate in this world?’
After an objection she moved on.
Habba showed the court Cohen’s deposition given to a Congressional Intelligence Committee in February 2019.
In the deposition, Cohen was asked if Trump or former Trump Organization chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg directed him to inflate the numbers on his financial statements.
Cohen responded at the time: ‘I’m sorry, did he ask me to inflate the numbers? Not that I recall’.
Habba asked: ‘Were you being honest in front of the permanent select committee when you testified on Feb 28th 2019?’
Cohen said: ‘No’.
Habba said: ‘So you lied under oath, is that your testimony?’
‘Yes’, said Cohen.
Taking the stand on Tuesday, Cohen testified that Trump ‘arbitrarily’ inflated the value of the Trump Organization’s real estate assets to secure favorable insurance premiums.
He told the court he doctored financial statements so the property values matched ‘whatever number Mr. Trump told us.’
The insider testimony could bolster New York Attorney General Letitia James’ argument that Trump, his company and several of its executives inflated property values. The case could break up Trump’s business empire.
Trump, the frontrunner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, has denied wrongdoing and defended the valuations of his properties, calling the case a ‘fraud’ and a political witch hunt.