A New York judge has denied former President Trump’s motion for a mistrial in his civil fraud case, rejecting the claim that the judge and his principal law clerk had “tainted” the trial with bias.
Judge Arthur Engoron issued a scathing rebuke of Trump’s mistrial motion Friday afternoon, describing it as “utterly without merit.”
He defended the political donations of his clerk and his own extrajudicial posts online to a school alumni website that came under fire by the former president’s defense.
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“I stand by each and every ruling, and they speak for themselves,” Engoron wrote in the six-page decision.
The judge accused Trump’s counsel of cherry-picking purported evidence of misconduct without showing the full picture. The mistrial motion cited a comment made by Engoron during Trump’s testimony that the judge was “not here to hear what [Donald Trump] has to say,” but excluded his next sentence which contextualized the comment.
“Such argument is disingenuous and made in bad faith, as defendants omitted what I said immediately after that sentence, which is ‘I’m here to hear him answer questions,'” Engoron wrote. “Indeed, those are precisely the roles of the witness and the finder of fact.”
That the judge had shared links about the case on his school alumni website also drew the ire of Trump’s counsel, which Engoron objected to by asserting that “none of this has anything to do with, much less does it interfere with, my presiding fairly, impartially, and professionally over the instant dispute.”
His clerk — who has become an unwitting main character in the fraud trial — was also targeted in the mistrial motion, which suggested that she has been given “unprecedented and inappropriate latitude” to act as a “co-judge” in the case. The clerk frequently confers with Engoron via whispers and written notes, frequently before orders are issued.
“There is absolutely no ‘co-judging’ at play,” Engoron wrote.
Trump’s counsel also accused the clerk of making “partisan political contributions in excess of strict limits,” including to groups that oppose Trump and support New York Attorney General Letitia James (D).
Engoron took to his clerk’s defense in his order, again accusing Trump’s lawyers of presenting arguments lacking context. He cited a judicial ethics opinion asserting that the contribution limits do “not apply to an appointee’s contributions to his or her own campaign. Nor would there be such a monetary restriction on the purchasing of tickets to political functions.”
The New York judge also took aim at Trump’s counsel for attempting to conflate his clerk’s attendance at “legally and ethically permitted” political events with his own political standing.
“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,” Engoron wrote.