The gag order is the second the judge has issued during the trial. It came after a long-simmering spat between Trump’s lawyers and Engoron flared up Friday when they engaged in nearly 30 minutes of debate about the judge’s chief law clerk, who has been a target of the former president since the start of the trial.
Trump has repeatedly complained about the clerk, Allison Greenfield, alleging without evidence that she is biased against him. Early on in the trial, a message depicting her that he posted on social media earned him a separate gag order barring him from speaking about the judge’s staff, and last week a comment by the former president about Greenfield resulted in the second of two ends for violating that gag order.
More recently, Trump’s lawyers have escalated their own grousing about Greenfield, who sits alongside Engoron on the bench. One lawyer, Alina Habba, complained last week about Greenfield’s “eye rolls and constant whispering.” On Thursday, the judge accused another Trump lawyer, Chris Kise, of possibly misogyny after Kise made a passing reference to Greenfield. That also prompted the judge to threaten to broaden his gag order.
At the beginning of court proceedings Friday, Kise continued to seize on Greenfield, suggesting she has shown “demonstrable bias or at least the appearance of that,” citing a news story he eventually revealed was from the right-wing online outlet Breitbart, drawing audible groans in the courtroom.
That article, which appears to be based entirely on a Wisconsin man named Brock Fredin who runs an X account called @JudicialProtest, alleges that Greenfield made “excessive political donations.” According to the article, Fredin filed a complaint with Engoron and with the New York State Bar Association and then published the complaint online.
Engoron said it was “absolutely untrue” that he had received such a complaint and said he hadn’t heard of the allegations until Kise had described them. “I’ll let everybody in the room decide what to think of Breitbart,” the judge added.
As he has in previous days, Kise complained about Greenfield’s habit of passing notes to Engoron during proceedings, suggesting she is improperly influencing his decisions. Engoron reacted sharply to that complaint, telling Kise, “I have an unfettered, absolute right to consult with my law clerks” and saying he would not tolerate future comments about his staff.
Kise, though, continued to argue that he needed to state objections on the record for the purposes of an eventual appeal. “If notes are being passed at certain specific times or they’re being passed in a way that might indicate some bias,” he said, “that’s a record that needs to be made contemporaneously.”
Engoron said he would consider the matter and rule on it later Friday.
In his comments in court Friday, Engoron expressed regret that they had revisited the subject so many times. “It’s a shame we’ve descended to this level,” he said. Referencing a remark Kise had made earlier about the high-profile nature of the trial, he added: “I totally agree, the world is watching.”