A New York appeals court judge on Thursday temporarily lifted the gag order issued to Donald Trump and his lawyers in his civil fraud trial after an emergency hearing.
Judge Advocate David Friedman of the First Judicial Department ruled from the bench. In a written ruling, the judge said: “given the constitutional and statutory rights at issue, a temporary stay is granted.”
Chris Kise, a lawyer for Trump, celebrated the move in a statement Thursday afternoon. “Thankfully, the Constitution and the First Amendment protect everyone, including President Trump. The public will once again have full access to what is going on in this unprecedented trial.”
Trump’s lawyers had asked for emergency relief earlier this week, arguing that the gag order violates the former president’s right to free speech.
Judge Arthur Engoron imposed a gag order on Trump to prevent him from speaking about court personnel, citing security risks.
His order came after Trump posted on social media a baseless allegation involving the judge’s principled law clerk. The judge later extended the gag order to prohibit Trump’s lawyers from making public statements about communications the judge has with the lawyer. The judge has twice fined Trump a total of $15,000.
“While the desire to protect one’s 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 Monday to sue for what they say is “actual and apparent bias” by the judge and the attorney general, who has donated to a political organization supporting New York Attorney General Letitia James, who filed the lawsuit.
The New York Democrat claims the Trump Organization defrauded lenders, insurance companies 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, seeking to stop him from doing business in the state. Engoron has already ruled that Trump and his co-defendants were liable for fraud.
The idea in 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 insurance companies, in part because the Trump family relied on accountants, and that any differences in the values of 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 the assets on the accounts.
The state is trying to prove six other allegations, including conspiracy, falsifying business records, issuing false accounts and insurance fraud.
This story has been updated with additional information.
CNNs Jeremy Herb and Lauren del Valle contributed to this report.