The Donald J. Trump Full Employment Program for Wayward Lawyers had a banner day yesterday in four courtrooms. This was followed by a matriculation ceremony of sorts at the Supreme Court, as the three-year battle to keep Trump’s tax returns from the House Ways and Means Committee finally ran out of steam, with the high court refusing to hear another appeal.
It started in Manhattan, where District Attorney Alvin Bragg is putting the Trump Organization on trial for its decade-long scheme to allow executives to pay for perks with pre-tax dollars, stiffing the New York Department of Taxation and Finance as well as Uncle Sam. Trump’s longtime accountant from Mazars LLP, Donald Bender, testified that he had no idea that the company was shelling out for executive cars and apartments and “probably would’ve had a heart attack” if he’d known.
Keeping it local, the fun picked up in the courtroom of New York Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron, where Trump’s lawyer Alina Habba appears to have long since exhausted the court’s patience. And filing yet another motion to dismiss on the eve of the scheduling conference characterizing the detailed complaint filed by Attorney General Letitia James as “clumsily attempting to recharacterize decades of business transactions between highly sophisticated parties, only to succeed in establishing that she cannot plead a claim” did not help.
“I ruled on all these issues. It seems to me the facts are the same. The laws are the same. The parties are the same. I don’t know why I and my staff—not to mention the attorney general’s staff—need to do this all over again. It’s like jumping through the same hoops,” said a clearly pissed off Justice Engoron, refusing to dismiss the case and setting trial for October 2, 2023.
The Daily Beast’s Jose Pagliery was in the courtroom and … yikes.
At one point, Habba suggested to Insider that Trump would actually take the stand in his own defense here. To which we would just note that the former president and his children litigated for years on end to avoid being deposed behind closed doors. And when they ran out of road, they largely took the Fifth. So … make of that one what you will.
Then it was a quick trip to Atlanta, where three judges from the Eleventh Circuit took turns beating Trump’s lawyer Jim Trusty about the head for his pathetic arguments in defense of trial Judge Aileen Cannon’s arrogation to herself of jurisdiction over the Mar-a-Lago documents case.
“What are we doing here?” wondered Chief Judge William Pryor, making it clear that special master Judge Raymond Dearie should probably refrain from ordering any office supplies, since layoffs may be imminent.
Then it was back to New York, where Habba and her partner Michael Madaio tried to convince US District Judge Lewis Kaplan that they couldn’t possibly comment on the imminent filing of a lawsuit by E. Jean Carroll, who alleges that Trump raped her in a department store dressing room decades ago. The upcoming suit, authorized under the state’s new Adult Survivors Act, will add a battery claim and another defamation count for comments Trump made this past October about Carroll.
“Your client has known this was coming for months and would be well-advised to decide who is representing him in it,” Judge Kaplan said, adding that he would have “a lot more to say” next week when the filing hits the docket.
It wasn’t quite as bad as when he gave Habba and Madaio an impromptu lecture on the Erie doctrine, but it wasn’t good either.
Then the Supreme Court declined to intervene to keep Trump’s taxes away from House Ways and Means Chair Richie Neal, who’ll be surrendering the gavel in a few short weeks. And although it was the only dispositive event of the day, it did cap off a grim run in all the courts for the former president.
Finally, in a bonus round/preview of fun to come, CNN filed a motion to dismiss the garbage fire defamation suit Trump filed against the network last month for saying he’s a big liar who flogs the Big Lie about elections. That suit was also filed by Jim Trusty, who began the day by asking Judge Cannon to hand over an unredacted copy of the affidavit supporting the warrant to search Mar-a-Lago, despite the fact that Judge Reinhart, i.e. the jurist who issued said warrant, already ruled that the government had “met its burden of showing a compelling reason/good cause to seal portions of the Affidavit because disclosure would reveal (1) the identities of witnesses, law enforcement agents, and uncharged parties, (2) the investigation’s strategy, direction, scope, sources, and methods, and (3) grand jury information protected by Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 6(e).”
The OG vexatious litigant strikes again. And again, and again, and again …
Liz Dye lives in Baltimore where she writes about law and politics.