NEW YORK — Lawyers for Donald Trump asked for a mistrial Wednesday in the New York civil fraud case that threatens the former president’s real estate empire. They accused the judge of tainting the proceedings with “tangible and overwhelming” bias.
Trump’s lawyers urged Judge Arthur Engoron to stop the case immediately, arguing he had irreparably harmed Trump’s right to a fair trial through “astonishing departures from ordinary standards of impartiality.” They cited his rulings against their client as well as the prominent role played by the judge’s chief law clerk.
Engoron gave lawyers for New York Attorney General Letitia James’ office until Thursday to decide whether they will file a response before he rules. Judges have broad latitude to conduct trials as they choose. Last week, Engoron spurned the defense’s request to end the trial through what’s known as a directed verdict.
Trump, the front-runner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, has long complained about Engoron, a Democrat. Trump was incensed by a gag order the judge imposed last month at the start of the trial and by a pretrial ruling that could force Trump to surrender control of some marquee properties.
Testifying last week, Trump assailed Engoron as an “extremely hostile” judge and the trial as “very unfair.” Trump ally Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., joined the attack, filing a complaint with the court last Friday about the judge’s handling of the case.
“The only way to maintain public confidence in a truly independent and impartial judiciary and the rule of law is to bring these proceedings to an immediate halt,” lawyers wrote in a 30-page court filing that reflected complaints they’ve made throughout the seven-week trial.
Engoron mentioned the mistrial request only briefly in court Wednesday as defense lawyers spent a second day questioning an accounting expert. It’s a bench trial, meaning Engoron will decide the verdict. New York law doesn’t allow a jury in this type of lawsuit.
James’ office said in a statement that Trump was “trying to dismiss the truth and the facts, but the numbers and evidence don’t lie.”
Trump “is now being held accountable for the years of fraud he committed and the incredible ways he lied to enrich himself and his family,” the statement said. “He can keep trying to distract from his fraud, but the truth always comes out.”
James, a Democrat, alleges Trump, his company and top executives exaggerated his wealth by billions of dollars on his financial statements by inflating property values.