Donald Trump had been expected to testify Monday in the defense phase of his civil fraud trial in New York City. But after his attorney Alina Habba swore that “Trump doesn’t cower,” Trump did exactly that. He backed out of his testimony at the eleventh hour.
However, after the first round of articles and commentary ran, Trump seemed to get that Florida-fried chicken suit was not the greatest look. So on Tuesday, Trump was back to repeat the excuse he had used in running away over the weekend. He wanted to testify, claimed Trump, only he couldn’t. Because the gag order put in place by Judge Arthur Engoron and upheld by an appeals court on Nov. 30 took away “my constitutional right to defend myself.” According to Trump, he is continuing to appeal this order, because it doesn’t allow him “free and honest speech.”
This is interesting because literally all the order does is prevent Trump from attacking law clerk Allison Greenfield and other members of the courtroom staff.
Here’s a brief history of Engoron’s gag order:
On Oct. 3, Engoron issued what he said could be considered “a limited gag order” barring Trump and his legal team from making statements about court staff. This came after Trump had made a series of false statements about Greenfield, including identifying her as “Chuck Schumer’s girlfriend.” The next day, Engoron made the gag order formal. Despite this, Trump was fined $5,000 on Oct. 20 and $10,000 on Oct. 25 for continuing to make false, defamatory statements about Greenfield. On Nov. 3, Engoron extended the order to Trump’s legal team after Trump’s attorneys repeatedly objected to Greenfield handing notes to Engoron and suggested that she was doing something illegal.
When the gag order was upheld by an appellate judge on Nov. 16, Trump immediately attacked Greenfield again, making false claims about her political donations, calling her a “Democrat operative,” and insisting that the “politically biased and out of control, Trump-hating clerk” was controlling Engoron. Members of Trump’s campaign team followed suit, with claims that Greenfield had violated laws governing political activities by court staff and calls for Engoron to be “investigated and removed from the bench.”
Testimony before the appeals court showed that Trump’s false claims had generated hundreds of death threats to Greenfield and others. However, Trump continued the attacks even as the appeals court heard testimony. Trump took advantage of the continued hold on the gag order over the Thanksgiving holiday, as he issued a barrage of social media messages describing Engoron as a “psycho” judge and Greenfield as a “corrupt clerk.”
Finally, on Nov. 30, the gag order was reinstated by a panel of judges in the Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court. Trump almost immediately sought an urgent review before New York’s highest court. That court has not, so far, reinstated the hold.
However, the only people protected by this gag order are members of the court staff and their families. It doesn’t protect New York Attorney General Leticia James or the lawyers who have prosecuted the case in court. It doesn’t protect Judge Engoron. It doesn’t even protect Engoron’s wife, who Trump attacked with false claims about a supposed account on Twitter that posted anti-Trump memes.
Had he taken the stand on Monday, Trump could have said anything he wanted about his company and the way they valued their properties. He could have raked the prosecution team over the coals for hours. He could have screamed about Engoron and made more false claims about his wife.
The only thing that Trump could not have done due to the gag order is make statements about Greenfield and the other members of the court staff. That’s the tiny pebble behind which Trump is now seeking to hide his giant chicken-feathered butt.
And considering the way things are going, Trump might really wish he’d climbed back in the hot seat. Because on Tuesday, in what is expected to be the final day of testimony by the defense, Trump’s expert witness—accounting professor Eli Bartov—has been actively taken apart under cross-examination.
Attorney Louis Solomon trotted out information about a previous expert witness appearance by Bartov in a 2019 trial against ExxonMobil. Reading from court transcripts, Solomon said in that trial the judge ruled that Bartov’s testimony was “unpersuasive” and “flatly contradicted by the weight of the evidence.” Bartov claimed he was unaware of the judge’s ruling. This is another statement that might be described as unpersuasive.
Bartov charged Trump almost $900,000 to come to court and say nice things about his accounting methods. In an all-caps statement on Monday, Trump bragged about the support of his expert witnesses, but he left those expert witnesses out of his rant on Tuesday. Which means Bartov probably shouldn’t be expecting a tip.
Markos and Kerry give their thoughts on what the country is facing in 2024. The Republican Party is running on losing issues like abortion and repealing the ACA—with no explanation of what they plan on replacing it with. Trump has a lot of criming to atone for, and the Republican platform remains set on destroying democracy.