The legal camp of ex-President Donald Trump is poised to challenge the proceedings of the ongoing New York fraud trial, as indicated by his attorney, Alina Habba. In a televised conversation on Fox News, Habba hinted at an imminent mistrial filing, citing unspecified “issues” and concerns about the presiding judge and clerk. The defense strategy appears to focus on perceived impartiality, with Ms. Habba expressing restraint due to a gag order, but promising forthcoming motions to address their grievances.
The spotlight of the trial is Judge Arthur Engoron, whose role in a bench trial necessitates his personal adjudication on motions for his own recusal and mistrial declarations. Trump’s team has already attempted to remove Engoron from the case twice, signaling a contentious battle over judicial objectivity.
As Trump’s attorneys prepare to make their case on Monday, they face a formidable $250 million lawsuit spearheaded by New York Attorney General Letitia James. Accusations of decade-long fraudulent practices within the Trump Organization have been met with firm denials by Trump and his sons, framing the legal action as a political move against his potential third presidential bid.
In defense of the Trump Organization, Habba has argued that their financial dealings have not resulted in harm to lenders, rather that they were conducted honorably and profitably. She has called for the dismissal of the case, suggesting that AG James’ prosecutorial zeal is motivated by personal ambition, referencing a statement from James’ campaign about taking legal action against Trump.
The saga has escalated with Congresswoman Elise Stefanik’s formal ethics complaint against Judge Engoron, accusing him of bias and undermining Trump’s constitutional rights, notably highlighting Trump’s prominence as a GOP presidential hopeful for 2024. Judge Engoron has not responded to Stefanik’s allegations publicly.
Engoron’s September ruling that led to the revocation of some Trump business licenses has not gone without scrutiny. The judge equated the Trump Organization’s valuations of rent-regulated apartments and restricted land with their market counterparts, a point of contention among real estate experts who argue that appraisal and market values differ, particularly for distinctive properties like Mar-a-Lago.
While an appeals court judge has temporarily halted the dismantling of Trump’s businesses, the rejection of Trump’s plea to dismiss the fraud trial stands. In the larger context, Trump confronts a slew of legal challenges across multiple states, all of which he has pleaded not guilty.