Trump is fined $10,000 over a comment he made outside court in his New York civil fraud trial

Former President Trump stands with clamped lips outside court.
Former President Trump speaks during a break in his civil fraud trial in New York. He was rebuked in court and fined over a comment to reporters about “a person who’s very partisan” sitting by the judge.
(Seth Wenig / Associated Press)
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Donald Trump was called to the witness stand and fined $10,000 on Wednesday after a judge accused the former president of violating a limited gag order in his civil fraud trial. It was the second time in less than a week that Trump was penalized for his out-of-court comments.

Before imposing the latest fine, Judge Arthur Engoron summoned Trump from the defense table to testify on his comment to reporters hours earlier that “a person who’s very partisan” was sitting near the judge.

Trump and his lawyers said the comment was about witness Michael Cohen, a former Trump lawyer — not about the court clerk. Trump told the judge from the witness stand that his remark about partisans was aimed at “you and Cohen.”


But Trump did not conceal his frustration with the clerk. “I think she’s very biased against us, I think we’ve made that clear,” he said.

On Oct. 3, Engoron ordered all participants in the trial not to comment publicly about his staff — a restriction issued after Trump maligned the clerk in a social media post.

The judge had ordered Trump to take down that post, which he did, the former president noted in court Wednesday. But the post had lingered on his campaign website for weeks, prompting a $5,000 fine against Trump last Friday.

Three of Trump’s attorneys objected to the $10,000 fine and reiterated the former president’s claim that the clerk was biased.

Earlier Wednesday, Cohen returned to the witness stand as the defense team tried to undermine the credibility and question the motives of Trump’s onetime personal attorney turned adversary.

With Trump at the defense table, his lawyer Alina Habba confronted Cohen with comments he had made praising Trump before turning on him when Cohen’s legal problems began in 2018.


Habba tried to suggest that Cohen had angled unsuccessfully for a job in Trump’s White House — Cohen insisted he never sought one — and asked whether he had “significant animosity” toward Trump.

“Do I have animosity toward him? Yes I do,” Cohen replied.

“You have made a career out of publicly attacking President Trump, haven’t you?” Habba asked.

After a long pause, Cohen said, “Yes.”

Cohen was Trump’s lawyer and fixer for many years, before Cohen’s 2018 federal prosecution, guilty pleas and prison sentence for tax evasion, false statements
on a bank loan application, lying to Congress and making illegal contributions to Trump’s campaign.

The contributions were in the form of payouts to women who said they’d had extramarital sexual encounters with Trump, who said the women’s stories were false.

Cohen is now a key witness in New York Atty. Gen. Letitia James’ civil case against Trump. James alleges that Trump habitually exaggerated the value of his real estate holdings on financial documents that helped him get loans and insurance and make deals.

Trump denies wrongdoing and says that James, a Democrat, is targeting him for partisan reasons. The 2024 Republican presidential candidate is leading in polls of GOP voters.


In his first day of testimony Tuesday, Cohen said he and key executives at Trump’s company worked to inflate the estimated values of their employer’s holdings so documents given to banks and others would match a net worth that Trump had set “arbitrarily.”

In cross-examining Cohen, Habba emphasized his federal criminal convictions and worked to portray him as a liar, especially after he said Tuesday he had lied when he pleaded guilty to tax evasion and lying on loan applications. Cohen asserted that he did not really commit those crimes, and sought to portray his conduct as a matter of omissions and failure to correct paperwork.

Habba returned to those themes Wednesday, underscoring that Cohen had admitted to lying under oath in a federal courthouse next door.

Outside court, Trump said the trial was “very unfair” and a “pure political witch hunt.”

Nonetheless, he said, “We’re happy with the way it’s going” and “we have the facts on our side.”

He’s expected to testify later, and has voluntarily attended several days of the proceedings.

Cohen is also expected to be an important prosecution witness in a criminal trial scheduled for next spring in which Trump is accused of falsifying business records. It’s one of four criminal prosecutions the ex-president faces in New York, Florida, Georgia and Washington.