Ex-President’s Attorney May Ask For Mistrial After Arguing Over Law Clerk

Ex-President’s Attorney May Ask For Mistrial After Arguing Over Law Clerk


Former President Donald Trump’s attorney Christopher Kise continued a heated argument Friday with the New York judge overseeing the ex-president’s ongoing civil fraud trial, with Kise suggesting he could try to have the case declared a mistrial over complaints about the judge’s law clerk—as the judge threatens to expand a gag order on Trump’s team.

Key Facts

Kise raised objections at the end of the trial day on Thursday with how often Judge Arthur Engoron’s law clerk was passing notes to him during the trial, suggesting she’s exerting improper influence on the judge—allegations that sparked an argument between the attorney and Engoron, who suggested Kise’s attacks on the clerk might have been “misogynistic.”

Engoron’s law clerk has been a source of contention throughout the trial, after Trump made a disparaging post in the trial’s first week sharing a false rumor about the clerk and suggesting she was politically biased against him, prompting the judge to impose a gag order barring parties in the case from speaking about court staff.

The back-and-forth over the clerk resumed Friday, with Engoron saying he hoped he was clear when he instructed Trump’s lawyers to stop making improper claims about the clerk and is “worried about this.”

Kise refused to drop the issue, saying, “The entire country, if not the world, is watching this proceeding” and pointing to a Breitbart piece published Thursday, which claimed a Twitter user submitted a complaint to the New York State Bar Association that takes issue with the clerk’s purported “partisan political and Democratic activities.”

The attorney claimed he could file for a mistrial due to the alleged bias.

Prosecutors with the New York attorney general’s office, which is bringing the lawsuit, told Kise to file a motion if they have actual evidence of wrongdoing—saying “making speeches” is “wasting a lot of time”—and Engoron defended his rulings in the case as being “right down the middle” and free from partisan bias, CNN reports.

What To Watch For

It’s still unclear if a formal motion for a mistrial will be filed in the case. Engoron suggested Thursday that should Kise’s objections over his clerk continue, he could extend his gag order to also cover lawyers in the case, though he has not yet done so. “Going forward, I don’t want any other comments about my staff or how I communicate with them,” Engoron said before the trial wrapped up for the day Friday. The trial is scheduled to continue until mid-December, with Trump set to testify in the case on Monday.

Big Number

$15,000. That’s how much Trump has been fined so far for violating the gag order. Engoron first fined him $5,000 for leaving the disparaging post about the clerk up on his campaign website, even as it was removed from Trump’s Truth Social account. Trump was then fined an additional $10,000 after telling reporters the judge has a “person who is very partisan sitting alongside him, perhaps more partisan than he is.” (The former president claimed he was speaking about his ex-attorney Michael Cohen, who was testifying at the time.) Engoron has threatened future violations of the order could result in higher fines, holding Trump in contempt or possible imprisonment.

Key Background

Trump, his business associates and his company are on trial for allegedly fraudulently misstating the value of their assets on financial documents in order to obtain more favorable business deals and reflect a higher net worth for Trump. New York Attorney General Letitia James alleges the defendants misstated the value of their assets more than 200 times on financial statements between 2011 and 2021, allegations that Trump and his attorneys have strongly denied. The former president has repeatedly gone after Engoron and claimed the judge is biased against him, particularly after the judge ruled before the trial began that Trump and his co-defendants are liable for fraud because the defendants misstated the value of their assets. (The trial is moving forward on other allegations.) Those attacks have intensified in recent days after Engoron imposed the $10,000 fine on the former president last week, with Trump calling him “out of control” and “publicity seeking” in a Thursday Truth Social post.

Further Reading

Live From Trump Fraud Trial: Eric Trump Returns To Stand For Additional Grilling (Forbes)

Trump Fraud Trial: Judge Upholds Gag Order After Fining Ex-President $10,000 (Forbes)

Trump Fined $10,000 For Violating Gag Order—Again—In Fraud Trial (Forbes)

Trump Shares Post Labeling Judge Who Fined Him A ‘Lunatic’ (Forbes)

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