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Trump fined US$10,000 for violating gag order in US civil trial

NEW YORK: Donald Trump was fined US$10,000 on Wednesday (Oct 25) after the judge overseeing his civil fraud trial found that the former US president violated a gag order in the case for a second time.Justice Arthur Engoron last week fined Trump US$5,000 after finding that he had not taken down a post disparaging the judge’s law clerk. Engoron had earlier barred Trump, the frontrunner for the 2024 Republican nomination, from making comments attacking court staff.On Wednesday, during a break in the trial over a lawsuit brought by New York Attorney General Letitia James over Trump’s business practices, Trump told reporters, “this judge is a very partisan judge, with a person who’s very partisan sitting alongside of him, perhaps even much more partisan than he is.”Engoron, surmising that Trump was referring to his clerk, called the comments a “blatant” violation of the gag order. The judge imposed the fine after Trump briefly took the witness stand to take questions.Also on Wednesday, Trump’s onetime lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen acknowledged under questioning by an attorney for the former president that he has a financial incentive to criticise his ex-boss but defended his credibility as he testified in the trial.Cohen, who came face-to-face with Trump for the first time in five years on Tuesday, underwent cross-examination during his second straight day of testimony in a case in which Trump’s family business is accused of unlawfully manipulating its financials to dupe lenders and insurers.Cohen testified in Manhattan on Tuesday that Trump “arbitrarily” inflated the value of the Trump Organization’s real estate assets to secure favourable insurance premiums. Cohen said he doctored financial statements so the property values matched “whatever number Mr. Trump told us.”Trump lawyer Alina Habba on Wednesday asked Cohen about how much money he made from his political podcast and two books he wrote since bitterly cutting ties with Trump and becoming one of his fiercest critics.”You have a financial incentive to criticize Mr. Trump, yes or no?” Habba asked.”Yes,” Cohen responded.

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Trump, the frontrunner for the Republican nomination to challenge Democratic President Joe Biden in the 2024 US election, has denied wrongdoing in the case and defended the valuations of his properties. Trump separately has pleaded not guilty in four criminal cases this year.Cohen’s testimony could bolster the attorney general’s argument that Trump, his company and several of its executives unlawfully inflated property values. The case could break up Trump’s business empire.But Cohen’s admitted record of deceit could undermine his credibility before Justice Arthur Engoron, who alone will decide the outcome of the bench trial.Cohen pleaded guilty to tax fraud, campaign violence violations and perjury in 2018 and was sentenced to three years in prison. He has defended his credibility and said some of his crimes were done at Trump’s direction.Before the trial began on Oct 2, Engoron found that Trump fraudulently inflated his net worth and ordered the dissolution of companies that control crown jewels of his real estate portfolio, including Trump Tower in Manhattan. That ruling is on hold while Trump appeals.The trial largely concerns damages. James is seeking at least US$250 million in fines, a permanent ban against Trump and his sons Donald Jr and Eric from running businesses in New York and a five-year commercial real estate ban against Trump and the Trump Organization.

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