The judge in Donald Trump’s fraud trial is soon expected to issue a final judgment in a sprawling civil case that could seriously damage the former president’s family business and brand-building real estate empire.
That is, if he can figure out if one of Trump’s co-defendants lied in his courtroom.
Judge Arthur Engoron is pressing Trump’s lawyers, the state attorney general’s office and the Manhattan district attorney for “anything” they could tell him about former Trump Organization chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg. negotiating a plea deal with New York City prosecutors for his testimony in the civil fraud trial.
If Weisselberg is now “admitting that he lied under oath in my courtroom at this trial,” the judge wants to know, he wrote to attorneys last week. “I don’t want to ignore anything in a case of this magnitude,” he said, according to court documents.
Lawyers for Mr. Trump’s grown sons and co-defendants called the request “unprecedented, inappropriate and troubling.”
Alina Habba – who represents Weisselberg in the civil case but is not a criminal defense lawyer – also declined to provide the judge with any information about her plea negotiations and said no further action was necessary.
Section i The New York Times reported Weisselberg’s plea bargain “is neither acceptable nor reliable, and should not be considered in Your Honor’s decision on the merits of this case,” she wrote, according to court documents. “We encourage you to make your decision based solely on the evidence before you.”
In a separate statement, Mr Trump’s lawyer, Chris Kise, said that “court decisions are supposed to be based on trial evidence, not media speculation”.
On Thursday, the judge fired back at defense lawyers.
“When I sent my narrow direct request for information about Allen Weisselberg’s possible perjury in the subject case, I did not want to start a wide-ranging debate with counsel,” he wrote. “However, your misleading reply greatly misleads the letter I wrote, and I feel compelled to reply.”
He accused him of launching a straw man attack against him for considering the content of the article as fact, but said that if Weisselberg publicly admits to perjury on a significant matter in the case before me, or pleads guilty of perjury. any time before I issue my final decision, I will research and consider what the law allows.”
“You and your co-counsel have been questioning my impartiality since the early days of this case, probably because I sometimes rule against your client,” he said. “That whole approach is getting old.”
The judge told defense attorneys that he is “not reopening the case.”
“But if someone pleads guilty to perjury in a case I’m in charge of, I want to know about it,” he said.
Last year, Mr. Trump’s former top finance lieutenant spent 100 days in Rikers Island prison after pleading guilty to tax-related crimes in 2022. He was part of a criminal tax fraud trial involving two Trump Organization subsidiaries, in among the first entities to be associated with Trump. to be convicted of crimes. A jury in New York City found the Trump Corporation and the Trump Payroll Corporation guilty on more than a dozen charges and fined them $1.6m.
Weisselberg also testified at the civil fraud trial, where state attorneys questioned him about his knowledge of statements of financial condition, the documents at the heart of the case.
Those documents included grossly inflated valuations of Mr. Trump’s net worth and assets in an effort to obtain favorable financing terms for some of his brand-building properties, according to a lawsuit by New York Attorney General Letitia James.
Ms. James is seeking $370m in so-called “ill-gotten gains” that the defendants would not have received if accurate assessments of her wealth had been included in those documents, according to her office.
He would also be banned from the state’s real estate industry for life, under sanctions proposed by Ms. James’ office.
The judge initially imposed a deadline of January 31 for a final judgment in the case, but after that date passed, a spokesman for the New York courts said The Independent that a final decision could be expected closer to mid-February.
But that was before the news of Weisselberg’s possible plea deal.
The Independent he sought comment from an attorney for Weisselberg and a spokesman for the Manhattan district attorney’s office.