More than a dozen attorneys representing the Trump Organization in two separate cases gathered in lower Manhattan Tuesday morning as courtrooms a block apart were scheduled for two trials on matters crucial to the company’s future could.
The two cases, a civil lawsuit brought by New York Attorney General Letitia James in September and a criminal trial on charges brought by Manhattan attorneys in 2021, stem from parallel investigations conducted against the backdrop of Trump’s presidency and the publicity offensive he made after his defeat in 2020 further.
Trump has accused both offices of conducting a “political witch hunt” while his company has suffered a series of courtroom defeats — failing to stop investigations or restrict investigators’ access to the company’s and Trump’s financial records The New York Attorney General and lawyers for the company met Tuesday, five days after a judge hired an independent monitor to keep tabs on the company.
In this case, the state alleges that the Trump Organization, former President Donald Trump, and three of his children — Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka, and Eric — were involved in a years-long, widespread fraud scheme centered around the manipulation of real estate values. The Attorney General of New York isan end to the company’s operations in New York and sanctions against the four Trumps.
Alina Habba, an attorney for Trump and the company, said at 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, turned heated shortly after it began when Judge Arthur Engoron criticized a motion to dismiss filed by Trump and the company Monday night. Engoron said the arguments fell into three groups, mirroring those he had already rejected as company lawyers sought to sink the attorney general’s investigation: “The presence or absence of what I call ‘the witch-hunt argument,’ omission to bring a cause of action.”
“I think it was Yogi Berra, unless it was Casey Stengel who said it was ‘déjà vu’ again,” Engoron said, referring to a famous line that describes Berra, the catcher of the New York Yankees Hall of Fame.
Habba openly simmered in court, saying Engoron had “a clear bias against our client.”
“You ask why my arguments are different? Said Habba. “They have filed a complaint and we have to react.”
After the hearing, Habba walked one block north to Manhattan Criminal Court, where she sat in the audience and watched attorneys from two Trump Organization companies who are on trial on more than a dozen charges related to criminal fraud and tax evasion. Prosecutors say executives at the company, which has denied all allegations, have devised a variety of programs 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 firm’s Trump accounts — both personal and business — for four decades.
The company’s lawyers have tried to pin the blame on the company’s former chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, who entered a guilty plea in the case in August. They have argued that Weisselberg and Bender, who received immunity in exchange for the grand jury testimony, should have better protected the company.
Weisselberg previously testified that he lived in an $8,200-a-month corporate apartment overlooking the Hudson River, without explaining the benefit, and that his son, Barry, paid $1,000-a-month — well below the market rate — for a luxury apartment in Central Park South paid.
On Tuesday, Trump Organization attorney Susan Necheles paced the court while questioning Bender about his communications with Weisselberg about Barry’s apartment. Necheles asked if Weisselberg had sought advice on the agreement.
Bender said he advised against it.
“He asked me a question and I mentally told him it wasn’t working,” Bender said.
Necheles shot back, “And you have no record of giving that advice?”
During two side blocks Monday, Necheles and another Trump Organization attorney argued that Bender should be declared an enemy witness and claimed he was unwilling in his answers. Judge Juan Merchan denied those motions.
Trump summarized his defense team’s stance on Bender’s company Mazars USA in a post on his social media platform Truth Social.
“The highly paid accounting firm should have routinely picked up these things – we relied on that. VERY UNFAIR!” Trump wrote on Nov. 18.
That day Attorney General Merrick Garlandto oversee two ongoing federal criminal investigations related to Trump, investigates 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 fight off the cavalcade of legal challenges.
“I think we’re doing a really good job. If you look at our track record, we won,” Habba replied. The judge later denied the company’s request to delay the trial in the New York civil case by at least 15 months, instead setting it to October 2, 2023.