Donald Trump’s Attorney Pushes for a Mistrial

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One of Donald Trump’s lawyers has said his team will be pushing for the $250 million civil-fraud case against him to be dismissed as a mistrial when it is rested later this week, citing what they saw as instances of bias against the former president.

Speaking to Larry Kudlow on Fox Business, Alina Habba criticized the judge, Arthur Engoron, for preventing Trump from speaking indefinitely when on the witness stand on Monday. Habba added that claims about a court clerk that are subject to a gag order would form part of their motion.

Trump and a number of his associates are facing charges of falsifying business records, insurance fraud and conspiracy, after being found to have overvalued several properties and exaggerated his net worth to secure loans and business deals. They have pleaded not guilty and deny any wrongdoing, with Trump calling the case part of a political witch hunt against him as frontrunner for 2024 GOP presidential nomination.

“We are obviously going to move to completely dismiss this case that should be a mistrial based on some of the things you mentioned today that I can’t talk about,” Habba said after discussing the interventions by Engoron. Kudlow, who previously served as director of the National Economic Council under Trump, mentioned the court clerk. Newsweek approached a clerk for Engoron and the office of the New York attorney general, who brought the case, via email for comment on Tuesday.

“There should be a mistrial here,” Habba added. “[On] bias, in general, I’ll say: there is [a] judicial code of ethics. Those ethics extend to the entire courtroom and when you violate the rules of judicial ethics, there need to be certain things that hold you accountable.”

Donald Trump (left) and his attorney Alina Habba (right) attend the third day of his civil-fraud trial in New York on October 4, 2023. The lawyer said that the former president’s legal team is preparing a motion to have the case thrown out.
ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images

The $250 million lawsuit could result in the former president and his business empire being prohibited from trading in New York, and Trump may be made to forfeit some of his properties, both within the state and elsewhere.

In late September, Engoron ordered in a pre-trial judgment that some of Trump’s business licenses in New York be rescinded. He stated the companies that own certain of his properties should be handed over to independent receivers—something that has rarely been used before.

In an at-times testy exchange on Monday, Trump sparred with the presiding judge and took shots at New York Attorney General Letitia James. He and his legal team have characterized the litigation—as with the other cases against him—as politically motivated.

“The judge did not like him finishing or explaining, because it’s not good for their case and he’s interfering,” Habba said. “He’s made his decision—let’s not forget that—he made his decision on summary judgement, he found liability already, so now we’re wasting taxpayer dollars for months and months.”

During his 3½-hour-long testimony, Trump frequently veered away from what he was being asked about, often to criticize James and the prosecution openly.

Arthur Engoron
Justice Arthur Engoron sits at the civil-fraud trial of Donald Trump at New York State Supreme Court on November 6, 2023 in New York City. He ordered in a pre-trial judgment that some of the former U.S. president’s business licenses in New York be rescinded.
Jefferson Siegel/Getty Images

Trump told one prosecution lawyer that they were trying to demean and hurt him, “probably for political reasons,” and described James as a fraud and a political hack who was using the case “to try and become [New York] governor.”

Trump said of Engoron: “He ruled against me, and he said I was a fraud before he knew anything about me.”

Engoron at times took a strong tone with the former president, saying: “I do not want to hear everything this witness has to say. He has a lot to say that has nothing to do with the case or the questions.”

At one point, Engoron turned to an attorney for Trump and said: “I beseech you to control him if you can. If you can’t, I will.”

At the start of October, Engoron imposed a gag order on Trump and his legal team, barring them from publicly discussing court staff. The former president had insinuated that Allison Greenfield, a court clerk, had a romantic involvement with Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.

After Trump said that Greenfield had a political bias, Engoron fined him $15,000 for breaching the gag order and said he feared the claims would put the court clerk’s life in danger.