Judge shoots down Trump mistrial motion in N.Y. civil fraud case – NBC News
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The New York state judge presiding over Donald Trump’s $250 million New York civil fraud case knocked down his bid for a mistrial on Friday, calling the former president’s arguments “utterly without merit.”
In a brief and blunt ruling, Judge Arthur Engoron said he was refusing to even allow arguments on the mistrial motion because the premises of the motion were flawed and it would be “futile.” The judge described Trump’s rationale for halting the trial, now in its second month, as “disingenuous,” made in “bad faith” and “nonsensical.”
Trump’s attorneys filed the mistrial motion Wednesday, arguing that Engoron and his law clerk had demonstrated bias against the former president. They also accused the clerk, who sits alongside the judge in the courtroom, of improperly acting as a “co-judge” in the case.
The clerk’s “position as a de facto co-judge” violates the judicial code and “creates the appearance, if not the fact, of a co-judge presiding over the trial,” they wrote.
Engoron, who last week issued a gag order barring Trump’s lawyers from disparaging the clerk after having previously fined Trump for comments about her, denied the allegations from Trump’s attorneys, as he’d previously done in court.
He said he has the “absolute unfettered right” to consult with his clerk however much he wants, and “as I have made clear over the course of this trial, my rulings are mine and mine alone. There is no ‘co-judging’ at play.”
The judge also disputed the allegation from Trump’s attorneys that his clerk had made political donations to Democrats that exceeded the legal limits. Engoron said the lawyers had their facts and math wrong, adding that the clerk’s financial contributions “were well below the ethical and legal permissible annual limit” and that the attorneys had not taken into account that his clerk had been running for a judgeship herself.
He also called the arguments about her being biased “nonsensical” and a “red herring” since the clerk “does not make rulings or issue orders — I do.”
In response to assertions that he was biased when he said during Trump’s testimony that he was not there to hear what the former president “had to say,” Engoron called those accusations “disingenuous” and a “bad faith” argument. The judge noted the lawyers “omitted what I said immediately after that sentence, which is ‘I’m here to hear him answer questions.’ Indeed, those are precisely the roles of the witness and the finder of fact.”
Trump’s lawyers had also charged that the judge has ruled against them much more than he’d ruled against New York Attorney General Letitia James’ office, who brought the fraud claims against Trump and his company. Engoron called that argument “similarly without merit.”
“I stand by each and every ruling, and they speak for themselves,” he said on Friday.
Trump attorney Alina Habba said she was not surprised by the ruling.
“As expected, today the Court refused to take responsibility for its failure to preside over this case in an impartial and unbiased manner. We, however, remain undeterred and will continue to fight for our clients’ right to a fair trial,” she said in a statement.
On Thursday, Trump’s lawyers filed an appeal of Engoron’s gag order barring them and their client from complaining about the clerk. The judge had said he was concerned the focus on the clerk could jeopardize her safety and the safety of his staff. A state appeals court judge temporarily lifted Engoron’s gag order after Trump’s attorneys alleged his First Amendment rights were being violated.
The temporary pause is expected to remain in place until a full panel of state Appellate Division judges considers the appeal later this month.
Adam Reiss is a reporter and producer for NBC and MSNBC.
Dareh Gregorian is a politics reporter for NBC News.
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