The judge in Donald Trump’s civil fraud trial issued a gag order on both parties posting online about his staff, following a social media post by the former president attacking his clerk and sharing her photo with his followers.
On his Truth Social platform Tuesday, Trump claimed without evidence that the judge’s principal law clerk is the “girlfriend” of Democrat Chuck Schumer, and reposted someone who asked why she was “palling around” with the Senate majority leader. Trump, the Republican presidential front-runner, has portrayed the case as part of a “corrupt” Democratic effort to hobble his campaign.
“Personal attacks on members of my court staff are unacceptable and inappropriate,” State Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron said. “I will not allow it under any circumstances.”
Trump deleted the post. Returning to the courtroom after a session he and the lawyers had with the judge at the lunch break, he remarked that so far he had had “a perfect day in court.”
In a statement, Schumer spokeswoman Allison Biasotti called the post false, “pathetic” and “absurd.” She said Schumer doesn’t even know the clerk and that he attends numerous events at which “tens of thousands of constituents take photos with him, just like this one, which was taken at an annual brunch in Manhattan.”
Engoron has already found Trump liable for fraud. The trial is focused on six remaining claims by New York Attorney General Letitia James, who alleges that Trump won favorable bank loan terms by inflating his assets by billions of dollars a year. All told, the false valuations allegedly helped Trump reap $250 million in illegal profits by getting better terms on loans, and the attorney general aims to claw that money back.
The trial, one of six—including four criminal ones—that lie ahead as Trump runs in the 2024 presidential election, will help determine the fate of his real estate empire in New York.
The drama unfolded during the second day of the trial in New York state court in lower Manhattan.
As the trial got back underway, Donald Bender, Trump’s former longtime accountant, was called to the witness stand to continue his testimony. Bender, who worked for Mazars USA LLP, and on Trump’s accounts for a decade, said that key information about the Trump Organization’s asset valuations was missing from its financial statements over several years and that he wouldn’t have signed off on them had he known.
He testified that he became aware of the missing documents when he was interviewed by the Manhattan district attorney’s office in early 2021. The DA went on to charge two Trump Organization units with tax fraud, winning convictions late last year.
In questioning Bender, lawyers for the state have sought to push back on Trump’s contention that his financial statements were accurate because Mazars, which prepared them, signed off on them.
“They were not giving us all the documents that we needed” to compile his financial statements, Bender testified, adding that his client was “responsible for the accuracy” of the information it provided.
Lawyers for the attorney general submitted numerous agreements between the Trump Organization and Mazars between 2011 and 2021, showing that the accounting firm had labeled Trump’s supporting asset data as “prepared by client” and relied on the information to be accurate.
When it was the defense’s turn at Bender, attorney Jesus M. Suarez took over the questioning. He had referred to Trump as the 45th president “and possibly the 47th,” drawing laughter in the courtroom.
Suarez aggressively cross-examined the veteran accountant, getting him to agree that he was close with Trump Organization executives, attending Trump’s wedding and in some years was paid more than $1 million for his work.
Suarez asked Bender why he didn’t inform Trump that his triplex apartment had been calculated as being 30,000 square feet. The state has e-mail evidence showing that the Trump Organization was advised the square footage had been tripled from the actual figure of 10,000 and that the company chose to disregard the discrepancy and stick to 30,000.
“So the leader of the free world, who was keeping this country safe, relied upon you not to screw it up, and you did?” Suarez asked Bender.
“You missed it?”
“No, I did not,” Bender said. “We relied upon a calculation” Trump provided, he said.
“But that includes missing 20,000 square feet. That was not something you did not disclose to your client?” Suarez pressed. “His company was going through this hell because you missed it?”
“No, because they misrepresented the numbers on this data,” Bender replied.
The day started out with a quip from the judge, who allowed news photographers to capture Trump briefly before he sent them packing for the session.
“Oh, the wages of fame,” he said as they filed out.
At the end of the day Trump declared on his way out that he was “coming back tomorrow.”