Former President Donald Trump has formally requested a New York appeals court. His request seeks to extend the existing pause on the gag order imposed on him in his ongoing civil fraud trial, stating that threats to the judge and his law clerk do not justify limiting his constitutional right to defend himself.
Last week, lawyers for the New York attorney general’s office and the court urged the appeals court to reinstate the gag order due to “serious and credible” threats directed towards Judge Arthur Engoron’s chambers since the trial began in October.
In a filing submitted on Monday, Trump’s attorneys argued that the former president has never threatened the judge or his principal law clerk, asserting that they cannot be held responsible for the actions of others.
They emphasized that Trump’s First Amendment right to criticize and express his perception of bias by the judge and his law clerk, without facing retaliation, is crucial for maintaining public confidence in the trial.
Trump’s attorneys acknowledged the need for appropriate security measures due to the disturbing behavior of anonymous third-party actors.
However, they contended that this does not warrant a complete abrogation of Trump’s First Amendment rights in a trial of great significance, which they believe has been compromised by partisan bias on the bench.
Last week, hundreds of harassing messages against Judge Engoron and his law clerk were made public, revealing the extent of the threats they had been facing.
Trump Case, Law Clerk Harassment Intensifies
The law clerk reportedly received an average of 20-30 calls daily on her cell phone and 30-50 messages daily on social media platforms and email addresses.
Earlier this month, a New York appeals court judge temporarily lifted the gag order imposed on Trump and his attorneys, citing the necessity for a full panel of judges to consider the constitutional issues involved.
The gag order had previously prohibited them from making public statements about the judge’s staff, particularly the principal law clerk with whom he consults.
Trump and his lawyers argued that the law clerk exhibited bias against Trump based on her political donations to organizations supporting the New York attorney general, who filed the lawsuit against Trump.
Lawyers for the judge have advocated for reinstating the gag order, highlighting the increased number of messages and the fact that approximately half of the harassing messages received by the law clerk were antisemitic.
Trump’s attorneys asserted that Trump cannot be held responsible for the offensive comments made by others.
They clarified that neither Trump nor his counsel made any statements regarding the law clerk’s religion, appearance, or private activities.
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