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Trump returns to New York fraud trial, complains about gag order

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Donald Trump

Donald Trump returned to his New York civil fraud trial on Tuesday and complained about a partial gag order imposed on the former US president by a judge in a separate case.

Trump’s former personal lawyer-turned-foe Michael Cohen had been scheduled to testify at the trial on Tuesday but had to delay his appearance to attend to what he said was a medical issue.

The 77-year-old Trump spoke to reporters as he arrived at the Manhattan courtroom, attacking New York attorney general Letitia James, who brought the civil fraud case against him, the judge presiding over the trial and President Joe Biden.

“This is a witch hunt by a radical lunatic attorney general,” Trump said. “And it’s very unfair.

“This is a rigged trial,” he added, with a “Democrat judge” who is “very liberal.”

Trump, the frontrunner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, also claimed, falsely, that the federal judge who will preside over his trial in Washington for conspiring to overturn the 2020 US election had taken away his “right to speak.”

“My speech has been taken away from me,” he said. “I’m a candidate that’s running for office and I’m not allowed to speak.

“This is a railroading that’s all coming out of the Department of Justice,” the former Republican president said. “It’s all set up by Biden and his thugs that he’s surrounded with to try and sneak out an election victory that he’s not entitled to win.”

US District Judge Tanya Chutkan did not take away Trump’s “right to speak” on Monday. Instead, she ordered him not to publicly attack prosecutors, court staff or potential witnesses ahead of the trial scheduled to begin in Washington in March 2024.

Chutkan’s ruling came after special counsel Jack Smith, a frequent target of Trump’s vitriol, filed a motion claiming that the real estate tycoon’s inflammatory rhetoric threatened to undermine his trial for election subversion.

Judge Arthur Engoron, who is overseeing the civil fraud trial, also slapped a limited gag order on the former president this month after he insulted a court clerk in a social media post.

Engoron forbade “all parties from posting, emailing or speaking publicly” about his court staff.

$250 Million Penalty

Trump is not required to attend the trial in New York, but he showed up for the first three days of the case and has used his appearances to portray himself as the victim of a Democratic plot to interfere in his presidential campaign.

New York’s attorney general has accused Trump, his sons Eric and Don Jr and other executives of the Trump Organization of colossally inflating the value of their real estate assets in order to receive more favorable bank loans and insurance terms.

Trump does not risk going to jail in this trial, but James, a Democrat, is seeking $250 million in penalties and the removal of the former president and his sons from the management of the family empire.

Before his New York trial began, Engoron ruled that Trump, his sons and other Trump Organization executives lied to tax collectors, lenders and insurers for years in a scheme that exaggerated the value of their properties by $812 million to $2.2 billion between 2014 and 2021.

He ordered measures to confiscate and liquidate Trump companies, which could lead to the dismantling of Trump’s real estate empire, but their application was suspended on appeal.

The federal election conspiracy trial is due to open on March 4 in Washington, the day before one of the biggest events in the Republican primary calendar, so-called “Super Tuesday,” when around 15 states hold their nominating votes.

Trump also faces federal charges for alleged mishandling of classified documents after he left the White House and has been charged with racketeering in Georgia for trying to overturn the 2020 election results in the southern state.

 

AFP

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