Proceedings at Donald Trump’s civil fraud trial in New York grew heated on Thursday, with the presiding judge pounding the bench and threatening to expand his gag order to keep the former president’s lawyers from attacking his court staff.
As Eric Trump was excused from the witness stand and the trial neared its end for the day, State Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron accused attorney Chris Kise of sexism for his repeated jabs at Engoron’s law clerk, Allison Greenfield, who sat to the judge’s immediate right. Trump’s legal team had previously expressed frustrations that Greenfield was passing notes to Engoron, allegedly swaying his opinion during the trial.
“She’s a civil servant. She’s doing what I ask her to do,” the judge snapped, according to the New York Daily News. “I sometimes think there may be a bit of misogyny in you referring to my female principal law clerk.”
Greenfield was previously the target of Trump’s ire in a mocking Oct. 3 social media post that led to Engoron issuing the initial gag order. The former president, who was in court that day, posted a photo of Greenfield with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to Truth Social, calling her “Schumer’s girlfriend” and accusing her of bias.
The Truth Social post was swiftly deleted, but shortly after Engoron issued a statement warning that “personal attacks on members of my court staff” would be met with “serious sanctions” in the future. Trump has since violated that order multiple times, costing him $15,000 in fines as of last week.
On Thursday, Engoron said he would consider broadening the gag order to cover Kise and the rest of Trump’s legal team, should there be “any further reference to anyone on my staff.”
Kise pushed back, saying he felt he had a right under the First Amendment to speak, particularly as he felt Greenfield was a second adversary “co-judging” him on the bench. He added that any “potential bias” by the court needed to be noted. Another of the family’s lawyers then waded in.
Alina Habba assured Engoron that misogyny was “not the issue” behind their haranguing of Greenfield, arguing that, as a woman, she could not be considered a misogynist. “I’m not going to stand by and allow it to happen,” she said of the clerk’s alleged bias, The New York Times reported.
At that point, Engoron hit the table in front of him, saying he had an “absolute unfettered right to get advice” from his principal law clerk.
“There is no First Amendment value that I can see, referring to her continually, when [you’ve been] making things up,” he continued, audibly incensed. “But when First Amendment rights begin to affect the safety of my staff—and we all know what’s going on out there—your points are not well taken.”
“It’s not a security issue,” Kise replied, according to The Messenger.
The lawyer also attempted to defend himself from the judge’s charge. “I’m not a misogynist,” he said, then added in apparent explanation, “I’m happily married. I have a 17-year-old daughter.”
Eric Trump, who reportedly spent the length of the confrontation staring up at the ceiling, is set to continue his testimony on Friday.