A New York appeals court judge on Thursday temporarily lifted the gag order placed on Donald Trump and his attorneys in his civil fraud trial following an emergency hearing.
Associate Justice David Friedman of the First Judicial Department ruled from the bench. In a written order, the judge said: “considering the constitutional and statutory rights at issue an interim stay is granted.”
Chris Kise, an attorney for Trump, celebrated the move in a statement Thursday afternoon. “Fortunately, the constitution and the First Amendment protect everyone, including President Trump. The public will again have full access to what is taking place in this unprecedented trial.”
Trump’s lawyers had asked for the emergency relief earlier this week, arguing the gag order is infringing on the former president’s right to free speech.
Judge Arthur Engoron imposed the gag order on Trump to prevent him from making any statements about court staff, citing security risks.
His order came after Trump posted on social media a baseless allegation involving the judge’s principal law clerk. The judge later extended the gag order to ban Trump’s attorneys from making any public statements about communications that the judge has with the law clerk. The judge has fined Trump twice for a total of $15,000.
“While the desire to protect his staff may seem understandable, the gag orders, as entered, are not narrowly tailored to do so,” the lawyers wrote.
Trump’s lawyers filed a motion for mistrial on Monday for what they say is “actual and apparent bias” displayed by the judge and law clerk, who has donated to political organization that support New York Attorney General Letitia James, who brought the lawsuit.
The New York Democrat alleges that the Trump Organization deceived lenders, insurers and tax authorities by inflating the value of his properties using misleading appraisals.
The high-stakes civil case strikes at the heart of Trump’s brand – his real estate empire. James is suing Trump for $250 million and seeking to bar him from doing business in the state. Engoron has already ruled that Trump and his co-defendants were liable for fraud.
The thrust of the Trump defense is that the financial statements were not misleading and that different people can come up with different values for the same property.
The defense has argued that there was no intent to defraud banks or insurers, in part because the Trump family relied on accountants, and that any differences in values on the properties were not meaningful.
But in September, before the trial began, Engoron ruled that the Trumps engaged in “persistent and repeated fraud” by inflating the value of assets on the financial statements.
The state is attempting to prove six other claims, including conspiracy, falsifying business records, issuing false financial statements, and insurance fraud.
This story has been updated with additional information.
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