NY AG, Trump lawyers ask fraud trial judge to disregard reported perjury inquiry as verdict looms
Lawyers representing former President Trump and the New York attorney general’s office both urged a New York judge Wednesday to disregard reports that a witness committed perjury while testifying, as the judge weighs his ruling in the case.
The New York Times reported last week that Allen Weisselberg, ex-Trump Organization chief financial officer and a defendant in the case, is negotiating a deal with the Manhattan district attorney’s office to plead guilty to perjury for testimony he gave during Trump’s civil fraud trial.
Days later, Judge Arthur Engoron asked Trump’s legal team and the attorney general’s office to bring him up to speed.
“As the presiding magistrate, the trier of fact, and the judge of credibility, I of course want to know whether Mr. Weisselberg is now changing his tune, and whether he is admitting he lied under oath in my courtroom at this trial,” Engoron wrote in an email to counsel Monday, according to court records.
The trial judge also warned he might choose to deem Weisselberg’s entire testimony as false, asking both parties to weigh in on how he should address the matter.
State lawyer Kevin Wallace said Wednesday that the attorney general’s office is not involved in any negotiations on whether Weisselberg conceded he testified falsely — though he noted other attorneys within the attorney general’s office have been “cross-designated” to the district attorney’s office on other matters, “including some involving Mr. Weisselberg.”
Wallace also said if Weisselberg did commit perjury, it should not impact the timeline of Engoron’s verdict in the case.
“Negotiations over a potential plea agreement could go on indefinitely. If Mr. Weisselberg and [the New York attorney general’s office] do not reach agreement, a trial on any potential perjury charges would take even longer,” Wallace wrote in a letter to the court. “And delaying the final determination in this action to await the outcome of plea negotiations would have the perverse effect of rewarding Defendants if Mr. Weisselberg is indeed guilty of perjury.”
Clifford Robert, who represents Trump’s sons, questioned the veracity of the Times report and raised issue with the judge’s suggestion it could influence his verdict.
“We respectfully submit that the Court’s request for comment on this speculative media account is unprecedented, inappropriate and troubling,” Robert wrote.
He also said the judge should not deem Weisselberg’s testimony false without also calling into question testimony from ex-Trump fixer Michael Cohen. On the witness stand, Cohen admitted to lying before a different judge and backtracked on key testimony during his cross-examination.
“It is inconceivable that the Court would not apply falsus in uno to Mr. Cohen’s testimony, while musing on its applicability based on a speculative news story,” Robert wrote.
And Alina Habba, who represents Weisselberg and several Trump entities, said she has not spoken with the district attorney’s office about “any of the matters discussed in the New York Times article,” declining to comment further due to her “professional ethical obligations.” She urged the judge to disregard the Times report in his verdict.
In a statement to The Hill, Trump lawyer Chris Kise accused the attorney general’s office of “actively coordinating” with the district attorney to bolster their case.
“Court decisions are supposed to be made based on the evidence at trial, not on media speculation,” Kise said. “But realizing they have no actual evidence to support their relentless and unjustifiable pursuit of President Trump, Alvin Bragg and Letitia James have now conspired together to create a media frenzy and use it as support for their claims.”
New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) sued Trump, the Trump Organization and several executives, including Trump’s adult sons, in 2022 alleging they falsely altered Trump’s net worth on key financial statements to receive tax and insurance benefits.
The trial ended last month after more than two months of testimony from some 40 witnesses. Before the trial began, Engoron found Trump and his business liable for fraud.
James’s office has asked Engoron to force Trump to pay a $370 million financial penalty and to ban him from New York’s real estate business for life.
The judge could issue his decision at any time.