Trump: It's My Free Speech Right To Inspire Violent Threats Against Court Clerk
Imagine this: You’re a clerk to a judge in a New York State court. You graduated from the Cardozo School of Law in 2010, and since then, you have worked as an associate in a New York law firm. For five years, you worked for the City of New York in its Special Litigation Unit handling law suits against the city. You have been the clerk to Judge Arthur Engoron since 2019, getting up in the morning and traveling by subway into Manhattan to your office in his chambers, or sitting beside him in court, advising him on cases, filings, motions – the constant flow of legal documents and questions that any judge in a big city court deals with constantly.
You have a good job. You enjoy working for your judge. And then one day, by the luck of the draw in the state court system, Judge Engoron gets assigned to handle People of the State of New York v. Donald J. Trump.
Even before Judge Engoron issued a gag order that forbade him to attack you on social media or in speeches or press availabilities, you were getting harassing phone calls and texts daily. Trump called you “Chuck Schumer’s girlfriend,” which even if true would not be a mark against you in your job, because you enjoy the right of any other citizen of New York State, or other states for that matter, to date whoever you want. But Trump hammered on it, making it sound like a charge against you, calling you “unfair” and “biased” because you happen to belong to the Democratic Party.
When the gag order was in effect, the harassment dropped off, but then the Court of Appeals temporarily lifted the gag order and Trump started in on you and Judge Engoron again. Trump took to social media, calling Judge Engoron a “psycho judge,” Attorney General Leticia James “racist” and you “corrupt.” He accused all three officials involved in the case against him of “seriously looking to DESTROY OUR COUNTRY.”
This kind of stuff would almost be laughable if there weren’t millions of people out there in America reading Trump’s rants on their phones and watching him attack you and the judge in the hallways of the courthouse and on its steps. They are his people. They believe him when he concludes his rant against you and the judge and the attorney general with his ubiquitous slogan, “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!”
Trump’s rants on social media and at his rallies are not just throat-clearing exercises. They are calls to action. He wants his supporters to join him in fighting the forces that in his eyes have somehow made America not great, even though every economic indicator shows that the United States is having one of the best years since the beginning of the pandemic.
All those people out there attending Trump’s rallies and reading his social media posts believe him, because they are told that everyone is lying to them but him, but Donald Trump, the man they want to vote for and put back in the White House.
So, they start in again on you and Judge Engoron, making 20 to 30 phone calls each day to your personal cellphone, because Trump and his minions have “doxed” you and revealed all your personal information, like where you live and who your relatives are and what your cell number is. Trump’s supporters have left you 30 to 50 messages a day since the appeals court lifted the gag order last week, a filing from attorneys for the New York State court system revealed last Friday. Charles Hollon, an official in the Public Safety Department’s Judicial Threats Assessment Unit, told the appeals court that approximately 50 percent of the harassing phone calls and social media posts were antisemitic.
A list of the threats and harassing phone calls and texts filed with the Court of Appeals ran to 250 single-spaced pages. The list included such threats against the life of Judge Engoron’s clerk as “I mean, honestly, you should be assassinated. You should be killed. You should be not assassin executed [sic]. You should be executed.” Another threat read, “Resign now, you dirty, treasonous piece of trash snake. We are going to get you and anyone of you dirty, backstabbing, lying, cheating American. You are nothing but a bunch of communists. We are coming to remove you permanently.” Hollon called the threats “serious and credible” in the filing, asking that the gag order against Trump be upheld.
In a filing with the Court of Appeals demanding that the gag order not be reimposed, Trump’s lawyers took the view that threats against the lives of court officials involved in the case against their client don’t matter: “At base, the disturbing behavior engaged in by anonymous, third-party actors towards the judge and Principal Law Clerk publicly presiding over an extremely polarizing and high-profile trial merits appropriate security measures. However, it does not justify the wholesale abrogation of Petitioners’ First Amendment rights in a proceeding of immense stakes to Petitioners, which has been compromised by the introduction of partisan bias on the bench.”
So, there it is. Not only does Donald Trump take the position that if you are a clerk in a New York State court, you should just suck up all the harassment and threats and stop complaining, you and the judge are in fact the reason you’re getting the threats, because both of you have introduced “partisan bias on the bench.” No evidence of bias was cited by the lawyers, because as with other statements by their client, such as that he won the presidential election of 2020, no evidence was necessary. The Trump position on the gag order, and on the cases against him in New York and Washington D.C. and Florida and Georgia, is that everything said about him or charged against him is unfair and biased, and all the evidence against him has been planted by the deep state, and he didn’t do anything wrong because he says he didn’t.
If some little clerk in New York City ends up getting pushed in front of a subway train or gunned down as she enters her apartment building, well, that’s what happens when you go up against Donald Trump.
Trump told the Court of Appeals that neither “President Trump nor his counsel ever made a statement referencing the Principal Law Clerk’s religion, appearance, or private activities.” Because all Trump and his attorneys have done is call her biased and unfair and corrupt, all the threats and harassment should be allowed to continue.
Free speech for me, death threats for the clerk and the judge and the attorney general. That is the legal position Donald Trump has taken in his filing seeking to have the stay against the gag order continued. Meanwhile, while Judge Engoron and his clerk are undergoing a tsunami of harassment and threats that took 250 single-spaced pages to list, Trump is riding around in armored Secret Service “Beast” SUV’s and traveling on his private jet, surrounded by Secret Service agents carrying M-4 automatic submachine guns, as he continues to egg on his hordes of MAGA followers.
(I have purposely omitted the name of the court clerk in the Trump trial.)
Lucian K. Truscott IV, a graduate of West Point, has had a 50-year career as a journalist, novelist, and screenwriter. He has covered Watergate, the Stonewall riots, and wars in Lebanon, Iraq, and Afghanistan. He is also the author of five bestselling novels. You can subscribe to his daily columns at luciantruscott.substack.com and follow him on Twitter @LucianKTruscott and on Facebook at Lucian K. Truscott IV.
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