(Bloomberg) -- The New York judge presiding over the state’s civil fraud case against Donald Trump denied the former president’s request for a mistrial, calling claims of political bias “nonsensical” and “utterly without merit.”
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Judge Arthur Engoron on Friday rejected claims against him and his law clerk, who Trump and his defense lawyers have repeatedly complained about. The former president and his team have accused the court of bias because the judge frequently confers with his clerk, creating the impression they are co-judging the case.
“As I have made clear over the course of this trial, my rulings are mine and mine alone,” Engoron said wrote in his ruling. “There is absolutely no ‘co-judging’ at play.” He said such claims 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’s ruling comes a day after his gag orders in the case were lifted by an appeals court judge, allowing Trump and his lawyers to resume public statements about the law clerk pending a review by the full appeals panel. Engoron said he sought to protect the clerk, citing a flood of threatening and harassing calls and emails, but Trump lawyer Chris Kise argued the restrictions showed the judge’s bias and violated Trump’s free-speech rights.
The trial of a lawsuit filed by New York Attorney General Letitia James has been going for seven weeks and is expected to last into December. James alleges Trump inflated his assets by as much as $3.6 billion a year for more than a decade. It’s one of six trials Trump faces as he seeks to return to the White House in the 2024 election. He denies wrongdoing in all the cases, claiming they’re part of a “witch hunt.”
In the mistrial motion, Trump also claimed Engoron’s clerk had exceeded the permissible amount of political donations in a calendar year. But the judge said Friday his clerk hadn’t exceeded the $500 limit under judicial ethics rules, and that Trump’s claims were based on a political editorial written by a critic of James’s suit, not actual evidence.
“That I may consult on the trial record, the law, and the facts, before issuing any respective ruling is within my absolute discretion and is in no way evidence that the final decisions are anyone’s but mine,” Engoron said. “Accordingly, there is no factual or legal basis for a mistrial based on these allegations against my principal law clerk.”
A lawyer for Trump didn’t immediately return an email seeking comment.
(Updates with appeals court lifting gag order.)
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