A New York appeals judge suspended restrictions Thursday on what Donald Trump could say about court staffers in his civil fraud trial.
The trial judge, Arthur Engoron, has fined Trump a combined $15,000 for violating the gag order against commenting on his clerk, Allison Greenfield.
But Trump appealed, calling the order unconstitutional and arguing the sanctions violate the court’s rules.
Judge David Friedman, who sits on the appellate division above Engoron’s court, suspended the gag order while the appeal is debated. Friedman asked for Attorney General Letitia James to file written arguments by Nov. 22 and for Trump to reply by Nov. 27.
“Considering the constitutional and statutory rights at issue, an interim stay is granted,” Friedman wrote.
The trial resulted from James suing Trump, his sons Eric and Donald Trump Jr., and their namesake corporation for $250 million. Engoron has already ruled they committee fraud for years in overvaluing real-estate properties for more favorable loans, and he is now considering what damages to impose.
Engoron ordered the cancelation of Trump’s business certificates, which could end his business in New York state. But that part of the decision is on hold while Trump appeals.
Trump has repeatedly criticized Engoron and Greenfield as partisans out to destroy his business.
Engoron’s initial gag order was sparked when Trump reposted a social media post that falsely claimed Greenfield was a girlfriend of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Engoron later expanded the order to include Trump’s lawyers, including Christopher Kise and Alina Habba, who have questioned Greenfield’s influence on Engoron.
Engoron fined Trump $5,000 for leaving the social media post visible on his campaign website for two weeks after the gag order. Engoron fined him another $10,000 for hallway comments about Engoron and Greenfield being partisans, despite Trump claiming under oath he was referring to witness Michael Cohen rather than Greenfield.
Trump’s lawyers argued in their appeal that the gag order curbed his right to free speech while campaigning for president.
“This constitutional protection is at its apogee where the speech in question is core political speech, made by the frontrunner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, regarding perceived partisanship and bias at a trial where he is subject to hundreds of millions of dollars in penalties and the threatened prohibition of his lawful business activities in the state,” the lawyers wrote in a legal filing.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Donald Trump’s gag order halted while case is argued: NY appeals judge