More than a dozen lawyers representing the Trump Organization in two separate cases gathered in lower Manhattan on Tuesday morning as a pair of proceedings were scheduled in courtrooms a block away in cases that could decide the future of the company.
The two cases, a civil lawsuit filed by New York Attorney General Letitia James in September and a criminal trial stemming from charges brought by the Manhattan District Attorney in 2021, stem from parallel investigations conducted in the context of the Trump presidency and the public relations offensive. he continued after his loss in 2020.
Trump has accused the two offices of waging a “political witch hunt” as his firm suffered a series of defeats in court – failing to halt investigations or limit investigators’ access to financial records. the company and Trump. The New York attorney general and the company’s attorneys met on Tuesday, five days after a judge appointed an independent monitor to oversee the company.
In this case, the state claims that the Trump Organization, former President Donald Trump and three of his children – Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka and Eric – have engaged in a widespread fraud scheme for years around manipulations. of the value of the property. The New York Attorney General isthe end of the company’s operations in New York and sanctions against the four trumps.
Alina Habba, a lawyer for Trump and the company, said during the hearing that the Trumps plan to attend the civil trial next year, “all of them.” She added that Trump himself could testify in his own defense.
The hearing, a planning conference, heated up shortly after it began, when Judge Arthur Engoron criticized a motion to dismiss filed Monday night by Trump and the company. Engoron said the arguments fell into three groups that mirrored those he had already dismissed when company lawyers tried to derail the attorney general’s investigation: “The quality, or lack thereof, of what I call “the witch-hunt argument”, the failure to plead a cause of action.”
“I think it was Yogi Berra, unless it was Casey Stengel, who said it was deja vu again,” Engoron said, referring to a famous phrase attributed to Berra, the catcher of the New York Yankees Hall of Fame.
Habba openly boiled in court, saying Engoron “had a clear bias against our client”.
“You ask why my arguments are different? They are not. Habba said. “They filed a complaint and we must respond.”
After the hearing, Habba walked a block north to Manhattan Criminal Court, where she sat in the audience watching attorneys for two Trump Organization companies who are on trial for more a dozen counts related to criminal fraud and tax evasion. Prosecutors say executives of the company, which has denied all charges, devised a variety of schemes to receive untaxed benefits and bonuses worth hundreds of thousands a year. On Monday, prosecutors rested and defense attorneys called their first witness, an accountant named Donald Bender who worked on his company’s Trump accounts — both personal and corporate — for four decades.
The company’s attorneys have sought to pin the blame on the company’s former chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, who in August pleaded guilty in the case. They argued that Weisselberg and Bender, who were granted immunity in exchange for testifying before a grand jury, should have protected the company better.
Weisselberg previously testified that he lived in an $8,200-a-month corporate apartment overlooking the Hudson River without declaring the benefit, and that his son Barry was paying $1,000 a month — well below market rate — for a luxury apartment in Central Park South.
In court on Tuesday, Trump Organization attorney Susan Necheles paced while questioning Bender about his communications with Weisselberg about Barry’s apartment. Necheles asked if Weisselberg had sought advice on the arrangement.
Bender said he advised against it.
“He asked me a question and I told him in my head that it didn’t work out,” Bender said.
Necheles fired back: “And you have no record of this advice?”
During two sidebars on Monday, Necheles and another lawyer for the Trump Organization argued that Bender should be declared a hostile witness, saying he was not candid in his answers. Judge Juan Merchan rejected these requests.
Trump summarized his defense team’s position on Bender’s company, Mazars USA, in a post on his Truth Social social media platform.
“The highly paid accounting firm should have routinely picked these things up – we relied on them. VERY UNFAIR!” Trump wrote on Nov. 18.
That day, Attorney General Merrick Garlandto oversee two ongoing federal criminal investigations related to Trump, investigations into the and the .
As she entered the courtroom on Tuesday, minutes before her confrontation with Engoron, Habba was asked if Trump’s team was ready to fend off the cavalcade of legal challenges.
“I think we’re doing a really good job. If you look at our record, we won,” Habba replied. The judge later denied the company’s request to delay the trial in the New York civil case for at least 15 months, setting it instead for October 2, 2023.