It’s been a heated week at Donald Trump’s civil fraud trial in New York. Judge Arthur Engoron was enraged at Trump’s failure to fully comply with an order to take down a web post attacking his law clerk (the offending post came down from Truth Social but a copy lived on at the Trump campaign website) and he imposed a $5,000 sanction. Trump said the failure to take down the copy of the post was inadvertent — probably true, given that it took weeks for anyone to notice it was there — but it also shows why it’s important to work very hard to make sure you’re following a judge’s orders. The sanction, while not a ton of money unto itself, is a signal the judge won’t take future violations of the order lightly, especially if those look more willful.
Trump attorney Christopher Kise also drew the judge’s ire for his rude and dismissive comments to that same law clerk and to one of the attorneys from the New York Attorney General’s office. Kise, who famously collected a $3 million fee deposit when he agreed to start representing Trump, is no dummy. But behaving as he did served no strategic purpose — and reflects how some attorneys let their egos get in the way of their work, especially when they have clients who react favorably to seeing them be rude.
Last week in Washington DC, Judge Tanya Chutkan issued a written version of the gag order she’d already announced in court. Oddly, the written version is less clear and well-developed than the spoken remarks she made from the bench, creating issues for Trump’s team to exploit on the appeal they are filing. Meanwhile, she has stayed her own order, at least briefly, to consider whether to issue a longer stay pending that appeal. That stay means Trump remains free to run his mouth as he likes (except about Arthur Engoron’s court staff) and he has been. Oh, and by the way, regarding that appeal — no, Trump’s lawyers did not forget to get someone on their team who is admitted to practice before the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, and you shouldn’t believe every bit of #resistance analysis you see on Twitter.
In Georgia, there are now four guilty pleas by defendants in DA Fani Willis’ RICO prosecution, including new ones from Sidney Powell, Kenneth Chesebro, and Jenna Ellis. All the plea deals are very soft, involving no jail time.
In New Mexico, prosecutors plan to take Alec Baldwin’s manslaughter charge to a grand jury again, saying they’ve done more analysis of the gun involved in the death of Halyna Hutchins and they now think they can show he must have pressed on the trigger for the gun to fire. Unfortunately, the FBI broke the gun while analyzing it, which will cause problems if prosecutors try to use it as evidence. Ken thinks they might not even really be trying to get the grand jury to indict — that taking it there and getting a No Bill might be a way for prosecutors to finally put the case to bed without appearing to have backed down personally. We’ll see.
And at Sam Bankman-Fried’s criminal trial, one of his many, many public statements in the press following the collapse of FTX has been used as evidence that he intentionally misled the public about the company’s business practices. It helps to show why the first rule of being a criminal defendant is “shut up.” Ken and I talked some about whether it might be a good idea to put Bankman-Fried on the stand to defend himself, and after taping, we learned his defense team intends to do just that.
We’ll talk next week about his performance.
We hope you enjoy the episode,
Episode links and references:
Judge Chutkan’s (for now stayed) gag order against Donald Trump