A New York judge shot down Donald Trump’s oush to get a mistrial in a civil fraud lawsuit that threatens to force him and co-defendants to give up hundreds of millions of dollars and block him from running a business in the state.
Trump and several co-defendants argued this week that their ongoing trial should get tossed out, in part, because the judge’s main law clerk, Allison Greenfield, attended a Democratic event in which speakers advocated for Joe Biden and received applause when commenting on a fight against issues tied to Trump.
However, Judge Arthur Engoron said his clerk attending the event, sponsored by an outside organization, didn’t mean the organization’s opinions and actions should be linked to the clerk and the judge.
“Such arguments are nonsensical; and in any event, they are a red herring, as my Principal Law Clerk does not make rulings or issue orders — I do,” the judge said.
Engoron is presiding over the New York Attorney General’s lawsuit against Donald Trump, his two oldest sons, and other associates and entities connected to the former president’s business empire. The state has asked the judge to order the defendants to cough up an estimated $250 million, and to impose severe business restrictions against them.
Engoron already ruled in September that Trump engaged in fraud by inflating the value of his assets. The ongoing trial is focused on other allegations, including that Trump and others falsified business records and committing insurance fraud, as well as on the financial bill the defendants could face.
In the move for a mistrial, Trump also criticized what he said were thousands of dollars of political contributions by the judge’s law clerk. But Engoron said his clerk has been running for judicial office, and that contributions by judicial candidates to their own campaigns aren’t subject to the normal $500 cap. He added that the cap didn’t apply to tickets to political functions, and subtracting those, Greenfield’s contributions fell well below the annual limit.
The Friday order seemed geared toward nipping the former president’s mistrial request in the bud. The New York Attorney General’s Office had suggested the judge set a schedule for briefing on the issue, even while it described Trump’s allegations as “spurious.”
However, Engoron said he couldn’t “in good conscience” order what he said would be “futile” briefing on the issue.
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Engoron defends consulting with clerk, says no ‘co-judging’ at play
In the mistrial request, Trump also criticized the judge for posting links to news articles that discussed the case in a school alumni newsletter. The judge, however, said he began publishing the newsletter many years ago and it’s regular for him to include references to news articles that mention a graduate.
“I neither wrote nor contributed to any of the articles on which defendants focus, and no reasonable reader could possibly think otherwise,” the judge said.
The decision came one day after a New York appeals court suspended gag orders from Engoron that blocked Trump as well as his lawyers from making public statements about court staff. Engoron had already fined Trump multiple times after finding he violated the gag, although the judge said the defense legal team could have some latitude when they filed a written mistrial request.
The Trump team said in that request that the law clerk was effectively co-judging the case by sitting next to the judge during the trial and passing notes or consulting with him during proceedings.
“There is absolutely no ‘co-judging’ at play,” Engoron shot back Friday. His right to consult with his law clerks is “absolute” and “unfettered,” he said, and his rulings are his alone.
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Judge in Donald Trump’s NY fraud case rebuffs request for mistrial