Judge Engoron’s Scathing Rebuke of Donald Trump’s Lawyers

Judge Arthur Engoron issued a scathing rebuke of Donald Trump’s attorneys in a new letter Thursday.

Engoron is overseeing Trump’s civil fraud trial, which stems from a lawsuit filed by New York State Attorney General Letitia James. She alleges that Trump and top executives at his family company, the Trump Organization, conspired to increase his net worth by billions of dollars on financial statements provided to banks and insurers to make deals and secure loans. James is asking the judge to impose a roughly $370 million penalty and a halt to Trump doing business in the state.

Engoron has not yet made his final ruling in the nonjury trial, which is expected this month. The former president maintains his innocence in the case and has accused James of targeting him for political purposes.

The trial wrapped up in January, but the case was shaken up by a February 1 report from The New York Times that Allen Weisselberg, former Trump Organization chief financial officer, is in negotiations to plead guilty to perjury during the civil trial. Following the report, Engoron reached out to Trump’s attorneys, asking them to detail anything they might know about the report and noting he does not want to “ignore anything in a case of this magnitude.”

Trump attorney Clifford Robert pushed back against the request, describing it as “unprecedented, inappropriate and troubling.”

Judge Arthur Engoron presides over Donald Trump’s New York state civil fraud trial on January 11 in Manhattan. On Thursday, Engoron issued a “scathing” rebuke of Trump’s legal team in the case.

Shannon Stapleton-Pool/Getty Images

Robert wrote that the case is closed and any concerns about Weisselberg’s testimony should have been raised “prior to the close of evidence.” He also argued that the request “calls into question the impartiality of the Court” and that Engoron lacks legal authority to take judicial notice of news articles.

Robert pointed to allegations that Trump’s ex-attorney Michael Cohen, who testified against the former president, also committed perjury during the trial. The allegations stemmed from Representatives Elise Stefanik and Michael Turner, both Republicans, who said Cohen’s testimony does not line up with what he told lawmakers under oath in 2019.

“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, referring to the legal principle that someone who falsely testifies about one matter is deemed not credible.

On Thursday, Engoron issued a response to Robert, writing that he was not “seeking to initiate a wide-ranging debate with counsel” with his initial request.

“You and your co-counsel have been questioning my impartiality since the early days of this case, presumably because I sometimes rule against your clients. That whole approach is getting old,” the judge wrote.

Engoron does not plan to consider judicial notice or falsus in uno in regard to Weisselberg as a result of the Times article, he wrote, adding that any invocation would be based only on a guilty plea. He also criticized Robert for bringing up Cohen’s testimony, writing that it is “out of bounds.”

“I take seriously my obligation to find the facts and determine the truth,” he said. “To that end, I find it appropriate to have reached out to counsel for Mr. Weisselberg, who is a defendant in this case, to inquire as to her knowledge of this serious allegation.”

Responding to Engoron’s letter in a statement, Robert told Newsweek, “I have always acted responsibly and will continue to properly advance my clients’ interests.”

Engoron’s letter was described as “scathing” by Courthouse News reporter Erik Uebelacker in a post to X (formerly Twitter).

Former federal prosecutor Neama Rahmani told Newsweek on Thursday that he is not surprised Engoron is upset, as Trump’s attorneys have been “aggressive throughout the trial.”

“Some of this is just advocacy, but Trump’s legal team knows they’re going to lose, and probably badly, so they’re doing everything they can to create a record on appeal,” he said.

Rahmani added that Engoron is in the “strange position” of having to decide what evidence counts, as the judge in the case, and how to weigh that evidence, as the finder of fact.