Both the New York attorney general’s office and Donald Trump’s lawyers are in agreement about one thing: they are both urging the judge presiding over the former president’s civil fraud trial to make a decision, regardless of any potential perjury deal involving Allen Weisselberg, a former Trump lieutenant.
Last week, news organizations, including CNN, revealed that Weisselberg, the former chief financial officer of the Trump Organization, is currently engaged in discussions with the Manhattan district attorney’s office. The purpose of these discussions is to explore the possibility of Weisselberg entering a guilty plea to a perjury charge. This charge is linked to his testimony as part of the attorney general’s fraud investigation.
Judge Arthur Engoron raised a significant point during the hearing, questioning the lawyers representing Trump and the attorney general’s office about the implications of the possible perjury admission. He pondered whether this admission should be taken into consideration and if it should affect the timing of his decision, which is anticipated to be made later this month.
According to Trump’s attorneys, they believe that it is not suitable for the judge to take into account any news reports regarding a possible perjury charge. On the other hand, the state lawyers argue that they do not believe the ongoing criminal investigation should hinder the judge’s decision in this particular case. The attorney general’s office is seeking a sum of $370 million as restitution for alleged improper gains, along with a request to prohibit Trump from conducting any business activities within the state.
The attorneys representing the defendants in the case expressed their concern over the judge’s inquiry into Weisselberg’s plea talks, deeming it “unprecedented, inappropriate, and troubling.” They argued that this should not be taken into consideration as evidence since it was not presented during the trial.
According to attorney Cliff Robert, who represents the Trumps and Trump properties, the Court can only base its decision on the evidence presented during the trial. Robert emphasized that considering information from sources outside the trial, particularly speculative news accounts, is improper and raises concerns about the Court’s impartiality.
According to lawyers representing New York Attorney General Letitia James, the criminal investigation into perjury may continue without a resolution for an indefinite period. They also mention that Judge Engoron has the option to revise his findings at a later time.
Kevin Wallace, an assistant attorney general, stated that they are currently not engaged in any negotiations and are unaware of the specific trial testimony that may be the focus of the plea negotiations or whether Mr. Weisselberg has admitted to providing false testimony.
According to Wallace, OAG does not think that this development should cause any delay in the final decision. He believes that the Court should take action and implement measures to prevent future fraud, such as industry bars and the appointment of a monitor with strong oversight, without any delay. If there is a need for additional sanctions to address possible perjury, the Court can retain jurisdiction to handle those matters.
Alina Habba, the attorney representing Weisselberg in the civil fraud case, mentioned that she does not represent him in the criminal investigation. She stated that she has not had any discussions with the prosecutors from the Manhattan district attorney’s office who are conducting the perjury inquiry. As for the plea negotiations, the criminal defense lawyer for Weisselberg has not responded to calls seeking comment.
According to Habba, Weisselberg is presumed innocent and it would be improper and unconstitutional for the court to assume his guilt based solely on an unsourced and unverified news article.